Passenger Growth

These graphs show the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) statistics for number of passenger entries and exits at local stations of interest from 2001 to 2020.

Source: ORR passenger entries & exits – data collected each year to end-March, up to & including March 2020, published December 2020.

Passenger growth - other stations - data to March 2020
Passenger growth – other stations- data to March 2020

The year to March 2019 showed a mixed picture with many weekends of engineering line closures plus the 23-day Filton Bank blockade in November 2018. This engineering impacted the ridership from stations in the north of Bristol. Additionally, BASRE resignalling completed in March 2018 and caused some problems in reliability over the spring and summer of 2018 until the November blockade. FoSBR record delays and cancellations on the Severn Beach Line here.

The year to March 2020 was anticipated to reflect a period of positive change as the GWR December 2019 timetable change increased the number of services from Bristol to London.

However, Covid threw the railways a curveball. From February 2020 there was uncertainty about virus 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 Office of Rail Regulation have produced two data sets to demonstrate the impact of Covid:

  • one running from April 2019 to March 2020 inclusive, as per usual
  • an alternate data set running from March 2019 to February 2020 inclusive, excluding the Covid impact in March.

FoSBR have chosen to use the standard data set to end March 2020 in the graphs on this page. Even with the impact of Covid in March, nearly every station shows significant passenger growth from the previous turbulent year, and also growth from a 2015-16 baseline. 

Passenger growth - local stations- data to March 2020
Passenger growth – local stations- data to March 2020

The 2015-16 baseline is used in below tables as it pre-dates the fluctuating passenger numbers associated with engineering works in the Bristol area. The tables show the growth (or non-growth) using the standard data set and the alternate “non-Covid impact” data set.

Local stations with strong growth% growth from March 2016 to March 2020% growth from March 2016 to Feb 2020 – excludes Covid impact
Parson Street37.3%41%
Lawrence Hill20.4%21.5%
Severn Beach15.5%18%
Stapleton Road14%16.6%

The beginning of the Covid impact can particularly be seen in the difference between the ORR data sets for those large stations which feed into inter-city travel.

Large stations – some up, some down% growth from March 2016 to March 2020% growth from March 2016 to Feb 2020 – excludes Covid impact
Bristol Parkway-5.5%-1.75%
Filton Abbey Wood-4.4%-1.7%
Bristol Temple Meads8.5%12.5%
Passenger growth - large stations- data to March 2020
Passenger growth – large stations- data to March 2020

Here the trends are shown by station group.                         

Station groups% growth from March 2016 to March 2020% growth from March 2016 to Feb 2020 – excludes Covid impact
Severn Beach Line (includes non-SBL traffic from Lawrence Hill & Stapleton Road, but excludes Bristol Temple Meads)                    9.9%12.4%
Large local stations (includes Bristol Parkway, Filton Abbey Wood, Gloucester, Temple Meads, Weston-s-Mare)5%8.9%
Other local stations (see “Other stations” graph for list)         12.9%16%

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. Then Covid happened.

The statistics from the Severnside Community Rail Partnership Annual Progress Report, published February 2021, show approximated ridership to end-December 2020.

Nine months of the Covid effect has caused 2020 passenger numbers to plummet to half those of 2019. This low level of ridership has not been seen since 2009. However, at the time of writing, travel restrictions are gradually being lifted, and we hope that 2021 sees a return to normal, albeit new normal.

Passenger growth - Severn Beach Line
Passenger growth – Severn Beach Line

*ORR (Office of Rail Regulation) data based on ticket sales Lennon data approximated to calendar year end-December 2020: 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 January 2020. 

**Weekday counts by Severnside Community Rail Partnership (SCRP) and West of England Partnership (WEP) were extrapolated to annual count by following formula: 36 weeks of 5 weekdays plus 16 (holiday) weeks of 3 weekdays plus 52 weekends of 3/5 weekday (ie, 2/5 Saturday + 1/5 Sunday). The supplementary passenger counts organised by SCRP (June) and WEP (November) are no longer carried out due to lack of funding and resources.

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.