Birmingham station still busiest outside London but passenger numbers plummet

Birmingham New Street remains the busiest railway station outside of London as figures show train passenger numbers plummeting during the pandemic

Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street

Data from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) showed the station had 7.3 million passenger entries and exits over April 1 last year and March 31 this year, compared to 46.5 million between April 2019 and March 2020, and 47.9 million in 2018-19, the last full year calculated before the pandemic struck.

The figures also show Wolverhampton station replacing Birmingham International in the most-used stations across the region.

It comes as passenger numbers across Britain plummeted by 78 per cent over the 12 month period due to the pandemic, the industry body estimated.

The most used station across the country was named as Stratford, east London, which recorded almost 14 million entries and exits over the period. It marked the first time in 17 years that London Waterloo was not the most used station – with it seeing the biggest decrease in passenger usage from around 12 million entries and exits compared to 86 million in 2019-2020.

Passenger entries and exits at West Midlands stations show how journeys were affected by lockdowns and working from home measures:

Coventry - 1.7 million in 2020-21, 7.8 million in 2019-20

Birmingham Moor Street - 1.5 million in 2020-21, 7.2 million in 2019-20

Wolverhampton - 994,634 in 2020-21, 5.1 million in 2019-20

Birmingham Snow Hill - 842,300 in 2020-21, 5.6 million in 2019-20

Stafford - 574,200 in 2020-21, 2.5 million in 2019-20

Birmingham International - 512,176 in 2020-21, 6.5 million in 2019-20

Feras Alshaker, director of planning and performance at the ORR, said: "Throughout 2020-21 the railways remained an essential service for those people who needed to travel during a year which was impacted by the pandemic.

"Birmingham New Street has consistently appeared as the only station outside of London in the top 10 list and it is clear it remained a key destination for many passengers through the year, and these stats also underline its importance as a vital stop and interchange for people across the Midlands.

"We have seen hundreds of railway stations with very few passenger entries and exits. However, we know that recent figures show leisure journeys are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, and there is a slower increase in commuter journeys."

Six stations in the UK had no passengers in 2020/21, mainly due to services being suspended because of Covid-19. It included Abererch, Gwynedd; Beasdale, Highland; Llanbedr, Gwynedd; Sampford Courtenay, Devon; Stanlow and Thornton, Cheshire; and Sugar Loaf, Powys.

Publicity surrounding last year's least-used station – Berney Arms in Norfolk – saw its passenger usage increase eight-fold, from 42 to 348. That was the biggest percentage increase of any station compared with the previous year.

Andy Bagnall, director-general at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: "The station usage figures show how the rail industry kept people moving for the first year of the pandemic.

"Some of the entries on the list reflect where people like key workers were travelling from and also the acceleration of changes to how people are travelling after the pandemic.

"Rail companies are working together to welcome people back and the recent increase in passengers continues to both reflect and support the nation's recovery."

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