Railway stations usage

Railway station usage, rail projects and additional information 


Railway station usage

There are 52 stations in the 12 districts that form the Lancashire County Council area, and across this area passenger numbers have risen from around 12. million in 2021/22 to 14 million. For the 62 stations in the wider Lancashire-14 area, numbers rose from 16.3 million in 2021/22 to 17.8 million in 2022/23.

At a district level changes in passenger numbers have ranged from a fall of under -1% in Pendle to a rise of around 20% in Wyre. When comparing with 2019/20, the last year largely unaffected by Covid-19, we see that rail travel had by no means fully recovered in 2022/23. In West Lancashire passenger numbers were still down by around a quarter (-25.3%) which appears to be in line with the regional situation. In Blackpool passenger numbers were 6% above 2019/20 numbers. Passenger numbers were 15.9% and 13.8% down in the Lancashire-12 and Lancashire-14 areas respectively on 2019/20 numbers.  This was a lot better than at the regional and national level. There are no national rail network services in Rossendale, only a preserved railway where passenger numbers are not counted for this study.

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 have recovered from 55 million in 2020/21 back to 186,484,117, but this was still a quarter down on 2019/20. For Great Britain, now with 2,578 stations in total, the passenger numbers which had exceeded 3 billion in 2019/20 recovered from under 700 million in 2020/21 to 1,788 and a half million in 2021/22 and 2,462 million in 2022/23.

New Microsoft Power BI Interactive Report

Source: Office of Rail and Road

There is also the original Microsoft Power BI report showing station usage from 1997/98 with tables, a map and graphs available here. Because of a change in the formats of tables published by ORR, this is the only report we have currently to show the time series and annual change.

Main destination or origin station

One new feature of the ORR statistics is that each station has a main origin or destination table identified. We have included a matrix in our new Power BI report to show this. As might be expected Preston is the main destination or origin for 20 stations around the Lancshire-14 area including all of Blackpool, South Ribble, Wyre and most of Fylde. Lancaster station is the main destination for travellers from the smaller Lancaster stations, although for Wennington, on the line to Skipton and Leeds, it is Leeds. In West Lancashire Liverpool Central is the main destination for two of the Merseyrail stations, for the other (Town Green) it is Ormskirk. For stations on the Southport to Manchester line the main destination is Southport except for Parbold, for which it is Manchester Piccadilly. The main destination from Upholland, on the Kirby branch line, is Wigan Wallgate. Manchester Victoria is the main destination station for five stations in Burnley, Ribble Valley and Blackburn with Darwen. Blackburn is the main destination for eight stations, all in East Lancashire and Burnley Central, Accrington and Clitheroe are also main destinations for five stations in East Lancashire. All of the four stations with Manchester Piccadilly as their main destination are in the southernmost part of the county. Liverpool Lime Street is the main destination for only one station in Lancashire, Euxton Balshaw Lane in Chorley. For the two largest stations, the main destination from Lancaster is Preston and from Preston it is London Euston.

Background of Lancashire stations

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. Passenger numbers were drastically reduced during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

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.  There is a long running campaign to re-open the platform on the main line side of the station, which would reduce the number of changes required in certain journeys.

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) would have incorporated a connection onto the existing West Coast Main Line to the south of Wigan, later amended to be south of Crewe. This would have enabled HS2 trains to serve additional destinations in the North West en route to Scotland. It was envisaged that the new route would give a journey time from Preston to London of just one hour and 24 minutes, and from Preston to Birmingham of 53 minutes. This phase of HS2 was cancelled in October 2023 but at the same time a new plan called Network North was published allocating £36 billion to various transport projects, not necessarily rail based, in the northern regions. None of these appear to be in Lancashire. Although the HS2 track will only reach as far north as Birmingham, the new bullet train style vehicles will run on existing parts of the West Coast Main Line all the way to Glasgow.

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.

A consultation has been held on the proposed new Cottam railway station. This will be situated on the line between Preston and Kirkham. It would be only the second station in the Preston City area. While primarily serving the relatively new suburb of Cottam it also has a direct link to western parts of Preston via the recently completed Preston Western Distributor Road. It is expected to open in 2024 or 2025.

The Network Rail website has press releases by broad geographic areas

A bid by Burnley Council for three projects to Round One of the Levelling-up Fund was successful, and one of these is to improve accessibility at Burnley Manchester Road Station. This will involve construction of a new footbridge and lifts.

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

Franchise arrangements were suspended in September 2020 as a result of Covid-19. Operating companies will continue in place, but without obligation to pay in the agreed offer for the franchise. The existing franchises were replaced with Passenger Service Contracts in 2021 or 2022. The proposals for the future of railways in Britain were outlined in the 'Williams-Schapps Plan'.

The Department for Transport announced in 2016 that the InterCity West Coast Franchise that incorporated the route from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh, having services calling at Preston and Lancaster, and was then held by Virgin Trains, would be replaced by the West Coast franchise that incorporates the route from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh, with the view that the new operator would also take on the HS2 line in due course. Bidders for this franchise were expected to include European or Asian companies experienced in running high speed services. The successful bidder was a new company Avanti, a partnership between First Group and Trenitalia, beginning on December 8th 2019. It replaced Virgin Trains, who did not submit an offer for the franchise that fulfilled the requirements for pensions. The company also inherited the management of Lancaster and Preston stations. The franchise arrangement was suspended in 2020, being replaced firstly by an Emergency Measures Agreement and then an Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement which would have extended the former franchise, now contract, to 2031. Because of poor performance a shorter contract was made with Avanti in 2022 and after improvements a longer term contract was signed. 

The TransPennine Express franchise included 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. A rail passenger contract replaced the franchise and agreements in 2021. Northern operates a range of local rail services that cover all but two of the 62 stations in the broader Lancashire area, and the franchise was awarded to Arriva, also commencing April 2016 with a planned duration of 7 or 9 years, but was taken back under government control in January 2020. The franchise and interim agreements were replaced by a rail passenger contract in 2022. 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 concession is operated by a partnership between Serco and Abellio. Merseyrail is different to the rail passenger contracts as it is a concession awarded by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Concessions often apply to metro/tram and light rail systems, which are not used for goods haulage.

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

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.

Page updated February 2024