Waterloo loses status as UK’s busiest station for first time in seventeen years with 86% drop in passenger numbers

Kit Heren (26 November, 2021)

Rail chiefs said the drop across the network was explained by lockdowns and the rise of working from home


London Waterloo is no longer the UK’s busiest railway station, after seventeen years at the top.

The terminus had the biggest drop in passengers from one year to the next, with 12.2m entries and exits from April 1 2020 to 31 March 2021 compared to the 86.9m it saw in 2019-20 – making it the fourth busiest station in the UK.

Waterloo is just outside Southwark, in Lambeth. All of Southwark’s railway stations also saw a huge drop-off in passenger numbers in lockdown, according to figures analysed by the News.

London Bridge fell 78 per cent, from 63.1m passengers in 2019/2020 to just 13.8m in 2020/21, although this was enough to take the station to third place in the UK, behind Stratford and London Victoria.

Passenger numbers at Denmark Hill only fell about 18 per cent, from 6.8m to 5.6. Peckham Rye dropped 71 per cent, from about 7m to about 2m, over the same period. Queen’s Road Peckham passenger numbers were down 66 per cent, falling from 3.2m to 1.1m.

Elephant & Castle, East Dulwich, West Dulwich, North Dulwich, Nunhead, South Bermondsey and Sydenham Hill all dropped off by between 69 per cent and 77 per cent.

The drop off in Southwark station usage mirrored a trend across the UK, with people told to stay at home as much as possible in much of the period.

Only five railway stations had more than 10 million entries and exits in 2020-21, compared with 43 stations in 2019-20.

Nearly 200 railway stations across Britain had fewer than 1,000 entries and exits, with six recording no entries or exits during the last year.

There were eighteen stations with fewer than twenty entries and 59 with under 100 entries in 2020-21.

Feras Alshaker, Director of Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road said: “Throughout 2020-21 the railways remained an essential service for those people who needed to travel during a year which was impacted by the pandemic…

“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.”


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