Railway stations usage

Railway station usage, rail projects and additional information 

1997/1998-2016/2017

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. This has been helped by significant speed and capacity improvements on the WCML that came into effect in December 2009. In recent years Ormskirk station has had passenger numbers estimated to exceed those at Lancaster, but this may depend on how Merseytravel calculates the number of railpass users.

Total passenger numbers rose between 2015/16 and 2016/17 in all thirteen of the Lancashire local authorities that have main line stations. The total number of passengers in the thirteen authorities was 20,211,186. This was the first time the 20 million figure had been exceeded. There are no main line rail 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 fall during this period. These included Salwick, between Preston and Kirkham, where the fall of 992 passenger entries and exits constituted a 31.5% reduction. At Burnley Barracks there were 4,492 fewer passenger entries and exits than in 2015/16. This equates to a fall of 18.3%, but may be accounted for by the rise in journeys at Burnley Manchester Road, which saw a 10.2% increase. The redevelopment of Burnley Manchester Road station was finished in November 2014 after a number of delays and has seen a rise of over 1000% since 2007/2008. The latest figures come with a further clue for the improved performance from the Office of Rail and Road who point to the re-establishment of the direct Blackburn to Manchester service via Burnley, following the re-instatement of the Todmorden Curves. See 'Rail Projects' below.

The section of the Ribble Valley line between Blackburn and Clitheroe was reopened to passenger traffic in the 1990s. There was a downward trend after 2012/13 but the latest increases of over 15% in all stations in the district are explained by the phrase 'Reversal of impact of 2015 Blockade' which is believed to refer to a six week period during which the passing loop on the line was extended by over a mile. This allows for the deployment of longer trains in both directions. The increase in passenger numbers in Ribble Valley district as a whole was 18.1%, the highest in the Lancashire-14 area.

For the same 2015/16 to 2016/17 period there was a 14% increase in the Blackburn with Darwen unitary authority, while increases in the other authorities ranged from 9% in Chorley down to 1.4% in Pendle.

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 334 stations in the North West, passenger numbers rose to nearly 230 million. For Great Britain, now with 2,560 stations in total, the passenger numbers were approaching 3 billion.

We have updated the Instant Atlas report with the latest year's figures, click here for the station passenger entry and exit figures for the latest and previous years. We also have provided an alternative Microsoft Power BI report 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

The Campaign for Better Transport have an interactive map facility that shows the passenger numbers from 1997 to 2015 for all stations, although it may not work in some older browsers.

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.

May 2015 saw the start of a new rail service from Blackburn that calls at Accrington, Rose Grove, Burnley Manchester Road, and then via Todmorden to Rochdale and Manchester Victoria. It offers a direct rail service between Accrington, Rose Grove and Burnley Manchester Road to Manchester Victoria, with associated reductions in commuting times. There are now more frequent services running from Blackpool to Manchester Victoria and beyond, such as Yorkshire destinations like Huddersfield. A connection at Rochdale is available to the Metrolink Oldham and Rochdale line. The new service also means that there are now three trains an hour each way between Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley. This followed the reinstatement of the "Todmorden Curves".

Work is underway to electrify more rail routes in the North West. The programme includes the 25 mile route between Manchester and the intersection with the West Coast Mainline at Euxton. It also includes the 17 mile route between Blackpool North and Preston. The developments will 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. But of the stations affected (Buckshaw Parkway, Chorley and Adlington) only Chorley had reduced usage in the 2014/2015 period, whilst remaining unchanged the previous year. 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. From November 11th to April 16th 2018 there were no rail services running to Blackpool North station, while the upgrades also closed the line to Blackpool South for a shorter time, and as some rail replacement buses were still required after this date we will wait to see how passenger numbers will be measured or estimated for the affected period.

In June 2018, it was announced that Alliance Rail Holdings has been given permission to start a new rail service from Blackpool to London in 2019.  There will be five outbound and five or six return trains a day operated by electric locomotive hauled trains. Virgin Trains currently operate direct Blackpool to London services.

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 whilst the development around a busy rail intersection to the north of Stafford should solve a significant capacity constraint on part of the West Coast Mainline between Lancashire and London.

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

Virgin Trains operates the West Coast franchise that incorporates the route from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh, with services calling at Preston and Lancaster. The operator also runs 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.

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 has been awarded to Arriva, also commenced April 2016 with a duration of 7 or 9 years. Merseyrail operates an electrified network that serves Liverpool and the surrounding area including a high density route to Ormskirk.

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 955 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 using the object data tool in Adobe Reader (select edit, then analysis, then object data tool). Once a station has been selected by clicking a site with the object data tool, details should appear in the model tree in the left sidebar.

Page updated September 2018