Passenger Growth

These graphs show the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) statistics for passenger growth in terms of number of passenger entries and exits at local stations from 2001 onwards.

Source: ORR passenger entries & exits – data collected each year to end-March, up to & including March 2023, published December 2023.

The year to March 2020 included the GWR December 2019 Bristol-London timetable uplift. From February 2020 there was uncertainty about COVID-19 transmission in public spaces. From mid-March 2020, the government advised that people should stay at home and avoid public transport. GWR introduced an emergency timetable from 23rd March 2020.

The year to March 2021 was impacted by national lockdowns, local lockdowns, tier systems and working from home recommendations. See here for a reminder of the timeline. GWR made various timetable changes throughout the year to increase the services from the emergency timetable, and also to cope with COVID-related staff shortages.

The year to March 2022 included the GWR December 2021 timetable uplift to half-hourly on the Severn Beach Line (as far as Avonmouth). The year was impacted by the tail end of Tier 4 restrictions – see here for detail.

By July 2021 most legal limits on social contact were removed in England, and the final closed sectors of the economy re-opened. However, habits changed as a result of ‘stay local’ and ‘work from home’ recommendations, and this is reflected in the ridership statistics for subsequent years.

Large stations

Passenger entries & exits - Bristol region - large stations - 2001-2023
Passenger entries & exits – Bristol region – large stations – 2001-2023

The large stations recovered well from 2022 to 2023 but still down in passenger numbers from the year to March 2020, that being the last year (mostly) unaffected by COVID-19.

Filton Abbey Wood is 47% down on the 2020 passenger numbers, this likely reflecting a change in working practices at the MOD.

Regional stations

Passenger entries & exits - Bristol region - other stations - 2001-2023
Passenger entries & exits – Bristol region – other stations – 2001-2023

Some of the regional stations have recovered to pre-COVID passenger numbers, eg, Bridgwater, Highbridge & Burnham, Weston Milton. Others are around 20% down on pre-COVID levels. Yate fares worse being 30% down – the timetable upgrade to a half-hourly Gloucester/Yate/Temple Meads service did not kick in until May 2023 so any ridership uplift will not be reflected in these figures.

Local stations

Passenger entries & exits on Bedminster, Parson Street, Patchway & Severn Beach Line stations - 2001-2023
Passenger entries & exits on Bedminster, Parson Street, Patchway & Severn Beach Line stations – 2001-2023

Some local stations have recovered to pre-COVID passenger levels, notably Lawrence Hill, Montpelier, Redland, Sea Mills, Shirehampton and Stapleton Road. St Andrews Road has increased footfall by a massive 202% since 2020.

Clifton Down and Severn Beach passenger numbers are still down from the pre-COVID figures. It is possible that this year’s ORR figures are more accurately allocating passengers to intermediate stations rather than these Severn Beach Line zonal boundary stations.

Severn Beach Line – long-term trends

For the Severn Beach Line, according to ticket sales data, passenger numbers doubled between 2008 and 2013 and then showed gradual growth up to 2017.

2018 was a year of transition with the blockade of the Filton Bank for four-tracking, but 2019 saw a resurgence in passenger numbers to crest the 1.4 MILLION ridership figure for the first time, and then came the COVID lockdowns.

The statistics from the Severnside Community Rail Partnership (SCRP) Annual Progress Report, published Spring 2023, shows a recovery in approximated ridership from 2021 to 2022 numbering 685,958 in calendar year 2021 and 1,169,900 in calendar year 2022. This compares to the 2019 pre-COVID figure of 1,407,102.

FoSBR look forward to publication of the SCRP February 2024 report to show approximated ridership to end-December 2023.

FoSBR record delays and cancellations on the Severn Beach Line here.

Passenger journeys by year on Severn Beach Line to end-2022
Passenger journeys by year on Severn Beach Line to end-2022

ORR (Office of Rail Regulation) data based on ticket sales LENNON data, some journeys made on rover tickets or employee passes or substitute buses may not have been recorded.  Uncollected fares are not included and are estimated at up to 15% of the journey totals.  Figures taken from SCRP Progress Reports up to Spring 2023. 

A general note on ORR data: ORR statistics are generated from ticket sales derived from LENNON, the rail industry’s ticketing and revenue system. However, LENNON does not attribute individual station figures correctly in a zonal fares system such as the Severn Beach Line. Also, a line such as the Severn Beach Line does not achieve 100% revenue collection so the data underscores the actual journeys made.