Some basic UK rail statistics

Numbers of Journeys on the main line network

Introduction

Any attempt to set out a statistical summary of travel in the UK is faced with insuperable difficulties. Rail travel ought to be easy because the government has caused statistics to be collected and collated for at least 140 years. That it isn't easy in practice is because the range of statistics kept has changed constantly, the basis of the collection of the data is constantly interfered with and modified and, finally, the significance of particular data is rarely explained so it isn't always obvious what one is looking at.

One can give endless examples, but a few will suffice to make the point. Is a 'passenger journey' that part of an extended trip the major part of which is 'on the railway' or is a journey counted each time the passenger gets on a different train? What happens if a passenger breaks a journey (perfectly possible to break a journey for several days once); is that one journey or two (or even three)?. At certain times only journeys both starting and finishing on main line rail were captured, whilst at other times a journey starting or finishing on someone else's system was included (London Transport being the main other player). But what effect did that have on the other player's statistics - if one added the numbers together did one double count? You get the picture? In a sense it doesn't matter what the system is provided it is consistent so you can see if travel is going up or down, but it isn't even remotely consistent! As the result the accompanying table is riddled with fractures in the data series where the official statisticians have altered something and often 'restated' the previous results on similar basis.

All I can do is set out the data as best I can, but one day perhaps we can hope to see statistics presented of a much higher standard that allow comparisons to be made across a longer time period than about five years! Unfortunately there are gaps in some series where the government or the railway authority has not seen fit to offer up the information.

The table below shows the following, in column order:
(1) Year, either calendar year or April to March, as indicated;
(2) Number of passenger journeys on national rail network in millions, return journeys counted as two trips, whether journey actually began at a national rail station or not;
(3) That number of journeys in column 2 that was undertaken using a season ticket, in millions; this number is estimated by the LENNON system based on a number of factors and is not the simple multiplier used until the 1980s.
(4) That number of journeys in column 2 that was undertaken using a one-way ticket, in millions;
(5) That number of journeys in column 2 (expressed in millions) that was undertaken wholly on the national rail network, it therefore excludes journeys begun at a London Underground owned station but includes journeys between contiguous national rail stations that happen to have been made in an Underground train (the recent information derives from entry/exit data which has its own peculiar complications and inconsistencies);
(6) The proportion of national rail journeys begun at a London Underground owned station rather than a national rail station.

Note: in adding data for 2009-10 it became apparent that very significant corrections have been made for years back to 2004 and the corrected numbers have now been inserted. It is not unusual for the previous year's information to be updated to more accurate information but such widespread correction is unusual.

* Applicable to 2011-12 numbers - total ticket types exclude 1.5m tickets applicable to non franchised rail operators.

(1)
Year
(2)
Passengers carried (wherever originating)
(3)
of which seasons comprise
(4)
of which normal tickets comprise
(5)
Pass Journeys originating on BR/NR network
(6)
Percentage of journeys originating on LT/LUL
2011-2 1462 626 834*    
2010-11 1354 597 757    
2009-10 1258 573 685    
2008-9 1266 609 657    
2007-8 1218 586 632 1034  
2006-7 1145 533 612 958  
2005-6 1077 498 579 801  
2004-5 1040 466 574 741  
2003-4 1012 451 561    
Statistics rebased. ORR suggests rebasing 1999-2003 caused by transferring from one business system (CAPRI) to another business system (LENNON). These capture passengers originating before any journey allocation. This also affects season ticket allocation.
2003-4 1012 433 579    
2002-3 976 412 564 752  
2001-2 959 408 551    
2000-1 956 407 549    
1999-00 931 391 540    
Statistics rebased
1999-00 947 404 544    
1998-9 892 384 508    
1997-8 846 365 481    
1996-7 801 342 459    
1995-6 761 328 433    
Statistics rebased. ORR suggests uplift may have been caused by new systems designed to deal with rail privatization where journeys by more than one operator are double counted. This overstates figures by about 5 per cent by comparison with all earlier data.
1995-6 719 326 393    
1994-5 702 327 375    
1993-4 713 341 372    
1992-3 745 361 384    
1991-2 740 361 379    
1990-1 762 365 398    
1989-90 758 360 398    
Statistics rebased. Some inflation in numbers may have been caused by introduction of business sectors and some double counting of multi-sector journeys.
1989-90 746 360 386    
1988-9 764 365 399    
1987-8 727 325 402    
1986-7 689 309 380    
1985-6 686 304 382    
1984 701 313 387 692 1.31%
1983 695 309 386 688 1.04%
1982 630 268 362 623 1.13%
1981 718 323 396 707 1.60%
1980 760 331 429 747 1.74%
1979 748 309 439 735 1.74%
Usage from West Midland Travelcards now included
1979 736 297 439 724 1.66%
1978 724 294 430 711 1.77%
1977 702 295 407 690 1.72%
1976 708 305 404 696 1.72%
Basis of statistical aggregation altered
1976 737 305 433 695 5.72%
1975 730 297 433 688 5.72%
Further adjustments made to 1975 season ticket usage to reflect more correctly the rebasing previous year on 480 journeys a year
1975 715 282 433 702 1.78%
1974 719 282 436 706 1.78%
Adjustments made to reflect calculation of season ticket usage on basis of 480 journeys a year not 540 as hitherto. Also other minor changes to ticket classification
1974 733 296 436 719 1.88%
1973 728 300 428 712 2.23%
1972 754 308 446 736 2.34%
1971 816 316 499 797 2.27%
1970 824 297 526 804 2.41%
1969 798 288 510 779 2.41%
Part of Hammersmith & City line transferred from BR to LT altering sales split; 1969 restated on new basis
1969 805 289 517 776 3.63%
1968 801 289 513 772 3.63%
Upminster line transferred from BR to LT altering sales split; 1968 restated on new basis
1968 831 299 532 806 3.02%
1967 837 300 537 812 3.03%
1966 835 288 547 811 2.87%
1965 865 285 580 843 2.55%
1964 928 299 629 903 2.65%
1963 938 292 647 913 2.71%
1962 965 295 670 939 2.71%
Season Ticket journey estimates henceforth assessed at 540 a year instead of 600 hitherto
1962 998 327 670 975 2.30%
1961 1025 317 708 1000 2.48%
1960 1037 315 721 1014 2.23%
1959 1069 320 749 1045 2.21%
1958 1090 313 777 1065 2.24%
1957 1101 313 788 1076 2.28%
1956 1029 289 750 1005 2.25%
1955 994 264 730 967 2.72%
1954 1020 275 745 991 2.83%
From 1955 the journeys based on specific ticket types are based on 'Passengers Carried' (left hand column above) and not the slightly smaller 'Journeys Originating' basis (in penultimate right hand column, below). 1954 restated on revised basis for comparison.
1954 1020 272 720 991 2.82%
1953 1015 274 712 985 2.93%
1952 1017 278 711 989 2.75%
1951 1030 282 720 1001 2.79%
1950 1010 278 704 982 2.80%
1949 1021 282 711 993 2.76%
1948 1024 296 700 996 2.73%
1947 1107 353 725  1077 2.64%
Nationalization in 1948 caused a recast in way statistics presented. Some transfer of traffic allocated between main line and LT. 1947 restated for comparison purposes.
1947   371 769 1140
1946   365 901 1266
1945   316 1056 1372
1944   306 1039 1345
1943   298 1037 1335
1942   274 944 1218
1941   245 778 1023
1940   276 691 967
1939   381 844 1225
1938   388 849 1237
1937   391 916 1307
1936   383 876 1258
1935   376 856 1232
1934   372 830 1201
1933   361 799 1160
1932   365 777 1142
1931   378 795 1173
1930   396 844 1240
1929   398 870 1268
1928   403 847 1250