Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lies, damn lies and statistics

I've just been sent a copy of the absolutely fascinating railway station usage statistics that try to work out how many people use each railway station each year - not as easy to calculate as you may think once season tickets, travelcards and the like are factored in. But they show some interesting results.

First off the bit most people are interested in - the ten busiest stations. And no surprises for guessing where most of these are:
  1. London Waterloo 83,993,314
  2. London Victoria 66,749,335
  3. London Liverpool Street 55,265,748
  4. London Bridge 47,576,684
  5. London Charing Cross 34,779,287
  6. London Paddington 27,258,741
  7. London Euston 25,585,113
  8. London Kings Cross 22,503,777
  9. London Cannon Street 21,106,127
  10. Glasgow Central 21,002,296
These should be treated with some caution because most tickets are sold for "London stations" and can be used for other stations on a direct or reasonable route. For instance tickets allocated to London Bridge may actually have been used for Blackfriars or City Thameslink.

So if we can't trust the most used statistics, how about the least used? Here are the ten least busiest stations (with the area added):
  1. Tyndrum Lower (Stirling) 17
  2. Buckenham (Norfolk) 22
  3. Coombe Halt (Cornwall And Isles Of Scilly) 32
  4. Golf Street (Angus) 38
  5. Barry Links (Angus) 44
  6. Denton (Greater Manchester) 65
  7. Sugar Loaf (Powys - Powys) 67
  8. Breich (West Lothian) 75
  9. Dorking West (Surrey) 79
  10. Thorne South (South Yorkshire) 79M
Yes a railway station in the London commuter belt is officially the 9th least used station in the country! Some of these are again distorted because most tickets for these stations are actually for "station groups" that are allocated to the main station for a town and this hits Tyndrum Lower, Dorking West and Thorne South. So once again never trust the statistics.

The other seven stations all have microscopic services. Golf Street and Barry Links are tiny little stations that are little more than bus shelters with one train a day each way that are only kept this way for special occasions and to avoid the hassle of the closure procedure so again not likely to attract huge tickets being allocated to them. Buckenham has no trains stopping during the week and just four at the weekends to cater for bird watching huts! Coombe Halt serves a tiny settlement and is located at a reversing point on the line (although most trains don't go the final distance to the platform), whilst Sugar Loaf serves mountains and is a request stop mainly used by trekkers. Denton, in Greater Manchester, has just one train a week and is another station given artificial life presumably for planning reasons. Breich has three trains a day and, presumably like some of the others, suffers from being on a low frequency line that cannot accommodate extra stops without knock-on effects to the wider network.

Even so the ludicrously tiny numbers for all these stations are too low to be believable. But then does anyone ever believe any figures from Network Rail?

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