The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) have released rail usage figures to 31st March 2022. With the easing of pandemic restrictions, a total of 990 million passenger journeys were made between April 2021 and March 2022. This is more than double the 388 million journeys made in the previous year (April 2020 to March 2021). Usage is recovering, but is still 43% lower than the pre-pandemic number of 1,739 million journeys made two years ago (April 2019 to March 2020).
The headline figures show that in Great Britain, 2,570 stations were served by mainline rail services as at 31 March 2022, including one new station which opened during the year, Soham.
In our area the year to March 2022 included the GWR December 2021 timetable uplift to half-hourly services 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 seem to have changed as a result of the recommendation to stay local and work from home. This is reflected in the ridership statistics.
Large local stations
The large local stations recovered well from 2020/21 to 2021/22 but still substantially down in entries/exits from the year to 2019/20, that being the last year (mostly) unaffected by COVID. The decrease from 2019/20 to 2021/22 was on average 40%, which is a recovery from the 82% average decrease between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
The particular drop in commuting can be seen by the decrease in passengers at Filton Abbey Wood, Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway. Passenger numbers are recovering but train operating company revenue is recovering less quickly due to the reduction in peak-fare commuting.
Smaller local stations
For local stations, the decrease from 2019/20 to 2021/22 was on average 37%, which is a recovery from the 73% average decrease between 2019/20 and 2020/21.
Only St Andrews Road increased passenger entries/exits between 2019/20 and 2021/22. The station serves an industrial and warehousing area at Avonmouth/Severnside, where many of the staff are key workers in food distribution.
Since COVID, Clifton Down serves more passengers than Filton Abbey Wood.
For more detail on regional stations and other local passenger statistics see our passenger growth page here.
FoSBR always make special mention of Pilning which clocked 418 entries and exits in 2021/22, up from 210 in 2020/21 but down from 710 in 2019/20. It means that the station is the 40th least-used station in the UK. Passengers can only go in the Bristol direction since Network Rail demolished the stations’s footbridge during electrification.
ORR director of planning and performance Feras Alshaker said:
It is heartening to see passengers return to travelling by rail following what was a difficult period for the industry during the pandemic.
There’s still some way to go in order for station usage figures to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Once again it is important to thank all those in the rail industry, who continue to work hard to help people travel safely and with confidence.