Stratford in east London has overtaken London Waterloo as Britain’s busiest railway station in the past year, latest figures show.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said an estimated 14 million passengers travelled through the east London station in the year to the end of March. Passenger numbers across Britain dropped by 78% over the 12-month period due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the first time in 17 years that Waterloo was not the most-used station in the annual figures. Just 12.2 million people used the station in 2020-21. This was down from 86.9 million passengers a year earlier, making it the fourth busiest station.
Stratford is a key interchange, enabling people to connect with other transport routes. It is served by c2c, Greater Anglia, London Overground and TfL Rail mainline services. The station also has London Underground and bus connections.
Birmingham New Street was the busiest station outside London, with 7.4 million passengers. Scotland’s most used station was Glasgow Central (5.3 million), while Cardiff Central (2 million) took top spot in Wales.
The figures are based primarily on ticket sales.
The ORR’s director of planning and performance, Feras Alshaker, said: “We’ve seen a radical change, especially in London, in the stations people were using the most.
“Stratford, Highbury and Islington, Clapham Junction, Barking and East Croydon replaced King’s Cross, St Pancras, Euston and Paddington in the top 10, underlining their importance as vital stops and interchanges, linking key workers with underground and bus services to travel.
“This year we have seen many 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, while there has been a slower increase in commuter journeys.”
Andy Bagnall, director-general at the 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.”
Six stations had no passengers in 2020-21, mainly due to services being suspended because of the virus crisis. They were Abererch, Gwynedd; Beasdale, Highland; Llanbedr, Gwynedd; Sampford Courtenay, Devon; Stanlow and Thornton, Cheshire; and Sugar Loaf, Powys.
After publicity surrounding last year’s least-used station – Berney Arms in Norfolk – passenger usage increased eightfold, from 42 to 348. That was the biggest percentage increase of any station compared with the previous year.