Railway stations usage

Railway station usage, rail projects and additional information 


Railway station usage

Preston and Lancaster are important stations on the West Coast Mainline (WCML) and passenger usage figures have risen steadily over recent years at both locations, though not in the last two years.

There are 52 stations in the 12 districts that form the Lancashire County Council area, and across this area passenger numbers have fallen from 15.5 million in 2017/18 to just over 15 million in 2018/19. For the 62 stations in the wider Lancashire-14 area, numbers also fell, from just over 19 million in 2017/18 to a little under 18.5 million in 2018/19. 

Total passenger numbers fell between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in ten of the thirteen Lancashire local authorities that have stations on the national rail network. Only in Fylde, West Lancashire and Wyre were there increases for the district as a whole. There are no national rail network services in Rossendale, only a preserved railway where passenger numbers are not counted for this study. Of the total 62 stations only 13 saw a rise during this period. The latest figures come with suggested reasons for some of the declines in passenger numbers from the Office of Rail and Road. The main one which affected 24 stations is 'Issues with May 2018 timetable introduction', the issue largely being a shortage of drivers or train crew, but sometimes of trains, and only affecting Northern services. The stations at Burnley Central (-24.2%), Croston (-26.7%), Church and Oswaldtwistle (-26.4%), Colne (-28.4%), Lostock Hall (-30.1%), Layton (-27.1%) and Rose Grove (-24.5%) saw passenger numbers fall by over 24%, and this explanation applies to them all. Other stations also saw declines of this order, but some were smaller stops where there is often volatility from year to year. Of the 13 stations where passenger entries and exits rose, three are the Merseyrail run stations in West Lancashire: These are Aughton Park (+13.2%), Ormskirk (+12.4%) and Town Green (+16.9%) which are flagged as being affected by industrial action during the previous year.

There are a number of rail stations that have reopened in the county since the 1980s. Moss Side was the first in 1983, but its rural location means that passenger numbers are small. Burnley Manchester Road, Buckshaw Parkway and Clitheroe have so far proved to be the most popular stations to have reopened.

Buckshaw Parkway (opened October 2011 at the site of a long-closed station that served the former Royal Ordnance factory at Euxton) is situated in an area of significant recent development built on this site, now called Buckshaw Village, and is on the busy line between Preston and Manchester.

At the regional level, across all 336 stations in the North West, passenger numbers continued to rise and now exceeds 230 million. For Great Britain, now with 2,566 stations in total, the passenger numbers have exceeded 3 billion.

We have provided a Microsoft Power BI report showing station usage from 1997/98 with tables, a map and graphs below. Click on the double-headed diagonal arrow to enlarge the slides to full-screen size. By pressing the Escape key 'Esc' a normal view is resumed.

Table 1 and Figures 1 to 3: 

Source: Office of Rail and Road

West Lancashire district includes Ormskirk, Aughton Park and Town Green stations that are in the Merseyrail transport area, whilst Appley Bridge is the only Lancashire station in the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport area. Being included in these transport areas presents advantages for local rail users.

Station usage figures at some locations are either totally or heavily influenced by people connecting with other forms of public transport, or visiting nearby attractions etc. For instance, the very small number of services to Heysham Harbour station, which is within the port complex, are operated to connect with sailings to the Isle of Man.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach allows direct access to the theme park that is the destination for a large number of young people using the station. Along with Squires Gate, the station is close to the southern end of the Fylde coast tram system that is operated by Blackpool transport. A £100 million upgrade of the system was completed in Easter 2012, which has reversed the previous falls in passenger numbers. The yearly reductions were exacerbated by a series of closures to allow for refurbishment work to proceed.

The Furness Line Community Rail Partnership includes Carnforth and Silverdale stations. There are few examples across the country where a working railway station on the national network is also a tourist attraction, but Carnforth station attracts thousands of visitors each year because of its connection with the classic film Brief Encounter.   

Stations such as Salwick and Hoscar have few users because they are in remote locations and only a small number of trains stop at these stations.

Rail projects that benefit Lancashire

The proposed new London to Manchester section of the High Speed 2 (HS2) incorporates a connection onto the existing West Coast Main Line to the south of Wigan. This will enable HS2 trains to serve additional destinations in the North West en route to Scotland. It is envisaged that the new route will give a journey time from Preston to London of just one hour and 24 minutes, and from Preston to Birmingham of 53 minutes.

Work to electrify more rail routes in the North West is now complete. The programme including the 25 mile route between Manchester and the intersection with the West Coast Mainline at Euxton was completed in early 2019. The 17 mile route between Blackpool North and Preston was completed in early 2018. The developments allow a number of local services that pass through Lancashire to be operated by quicker and more reliable electric trains. In December 2013 the electrification of the Liverpool-Manchester line through Eccles was completed, and some of the services to Manchester Airport station were re-routed onto this line via the West Coast main line missing out the line through Chorley and Bolton. All of the stations affected (Buckshaw Parkway, Chorley and Adlington) had fairly small falls in passenger number of under 7%  from 2016/17 to 2017/18. This alternative route is still used by some Northern services to Manchester Airport, even though electrification is now complete. In 2015 the electrification of the Liverpool to Newton-le-Willows section of the line to Manchester was completed. This probably has less effect on Lancashire passengers than the completion of the eastern section through Eccles, but electric trains now run direct from Liverpool to Manchester and freight trains from Liverpool can be electric-locomotive hauled onto the WCML. Of more importance for Lancashire passengers was the completion of the Huyton-Wigan electrification in 2015, speeding up the Preston to Liverpool Northern Rail services. The services from Liverpool to Blackpool now run direct with electric power. 

In June 2018, it was announced that Alliance Rail Holdings has been given permission to start a new rail service from Blackpool and Barrow to London from Spring 2020. There will be five outbound and five or six return trains a day operated by electric locomotive hauled trains.

The Network Rail website has press releases by broad geographic areas. Recent announcements have included improvements for passengers using platform four at Blackburn station and the redevelopment of Accrington station.  Network Rail's list of major projects includes the Northern Hub and the Stafford-Norton Bridge enhancements. The Northern Hub scheme incorporates better links from Lancashire to Manchester.

In August 2014, a 30-year plan for the future of rail services in the Liverpool City Region was published.  It includes 12 priorities and two have a direct impact on Lancashire. There is a proposal to electrify the line between Kirkby and Wigan and include connections to a new station in Skelmersdale. There is also a desire to electrify the Ormskirk to Preston line; reinstate the Burscough curves between Ormskirk/Preston and Southport directions; and redevelop Burscough Bridge station as an important interchange between Ormskirk/Liverpool and Southport/Wigan services.

Train operating companies that serve Lancashire plus other rail-related businesses

For the time period covering the station entries and exits in this article (April 2018 to March 2019) Virgin Trains operated the West Coast franchise that incorporates the route from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh, with services calling at Preston and Lancaster but in December 2019 the franchise was taken over by a new company called Avanti, a partnership between First Group and Trenitalia. The company also inherited the management of Lancaster and Preston stations. The West Coast franchise also operates an hourly Scotland to London service via Birmingham New Street, that also stops at Wolverhampton, Sandwell & Dudley, Birmingham International (for the airport), Coventry and Milton Keynes, and a less frequent direct London to Blackpool service.

The TransPennine Express franchise includes services between Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh that call at Lancaster and Preston. In December 2015, the franchise was awarded to First Group (took effect April 2016) and lasts for 9 or 10 years. Northern operates a range of local rail services that cover all but two of the 62 stations in the broader Lancashire area, and this was awarded to Arriva, also commenced April 2016 with a planned duration of 7 or 9 years, but was taken back under government control in January 2020. Merseyrail covers an electrified network that serves Liverpool and the surrounding area including a high density route to Ormskirk. On the network the electric current comes from a third rail rather than overhead wires. This franchise is operated by a partnership between Serco and Abellio.

The Department for Transport website has the details of all current rail franchises.

Haigh Rail is a rail engineering company in that is based in Lancashire. The Eric Wright Group is a large building industry business that has its HQ in Bamber Bridge to the south of Preston. Its civil engineering division includes a rail section that was established in 2012, and is able to bid for Network Rail infrastructure schemes across the UK.

Interactive PDF download

Station usage and rail developments (PDF 1,819 KB) 

For full functionality of the map, which is an interactive PDF document, save the file to your device and open with Adobe Reader. Stations can be identified in the 'Model Tree', which usually appears as the fourth icon down on the left hand margin of the Adobe Reader window - below the 'Page thumbnails', 'Attachments' and 'Layers' icons.

Page updated January 2020