Tram and light rail usage in England has reached record levels (well since 1983 when records began anyway – it was probably a lot higher in the heyday of the tram!) according to the latest figures released by the Department for Transport. 239.8 million journeys were recorded in the 12 months up until the end of March 2015 which is a 5.6% increase since 2013/14. Much of the increase is down to the Docklands Light Railway, Tyne and Wear Metro and Manchester Metrolink who have all enjoyed a significant rise during this period. Unfortunately the rosy picture doesn’t extend across England with as Midland Metro, South Yorkshire Supertram and Blackpool Tramway all recording decreases.
The figures – released by the Department for Transport annually – cover the eight tram and light rail systems in England which feature predominantly surface running (thus excluding London Underground). These systems are Blackpool Tramway, Docklands Light Railway, London Tramlink, Manchester Metrolink, Midland Metro, Nottingham Express, South Yorkshire Supertram and Tyne and Wear Metro.
The increase in passenger journeys this year means that since 2004/5 the increase is now at 51% (and within London it has almost doubled at 97.6%) although a lot of this increase can of course be put down to the fact that numerous extensions have opened in the intervening period. Of those passenger journeys recorded in 2014/5 59% are within London (with the Docklands Light Railway itself covering very nearly 50% of all journeys!); the reasons for this are probably twofold – more funding available for transport and also the larger population and public transport use in the capital.
The good news of these figures is that the Docklands Light Railway (8.5% increase), London Tramlink (3.5%), Nottingham Express Transit (2.9%), Tyne and Wear Metro (6.7%) and Manchester Metrolink (6.6%) all recorded increases in passenger numbers (although for Nottingham Express Transit and the Tyne and Wear Metro these do still not reach their peak figures).
But, as always, with every bit of good news there is some bad and that comes in the form of Blackpool (5.9 decrease), Midland Metro (6.1%) and South Yorkshire Supertram (8.5%) which all recorded significant percentage decreases in passengers carried. For the latter two at least some of this can be attributed to the extensive rail replacement works (although passenger numbers decreased more than mileage operated by the trams) which have taken place but for Blackpool it is a different story. Exact reasons for the lower numbers aren’t given but we do know that a less frequent service was operated in 2014 – culminating in major complaints in the local media during the October Half Term – and this is likely to be a major reason for the 5.9% decrease (vehicle mileage actually fell by 6.5% which seems to suggest this is a major part of the Blackpool story in 2014/5).
Passenger revenues have also seen an overall increase with £307.6 million recorded, an increase of 4.4%. Unsurprisingly the same three systems saw a decrease (Blackpool -10.8%, South Yorkshire Supertram -10.5% and Midland Metro -4.95%) with all other systems having an increase in revenue.
Other key figures released by the DfT show that 12% of all passenger journeys are concessionary – this is a decline of 1% from the previous year. This decline has mainly been put down to the withdrawal of non-Blackpool concessionary passes on the Blackpool Tramway which saw an 80% decrease in concessionary passenger journeys. The highest proportion of concessionary journeys in England is enjoyed on South Yorkshire Supertram where 32% of all journeys are concessionary whilst the Docklands Light Railway only saw 5% concessionary use.
Passenger journeys per system
Blackpool Tramway – 4.1m (decrease of 5.9%)
Docklands Light Railway – 110.2m (increase of 8.5%)
London Tramlink – 32.3m (increase of 3.5%)
Manchester Metrolink – 31.2m (increase of 6.6%)
Midland Metro – 4.4m (decrease of 6.1%)
Nottingham Express Transit – 8.1m (increase of 2.9%)
South Yorkshire Supertram – 11.5m (decrease of 8.5%)
Tyne and Wear Metro – 38.1m (increase of 6.7%)
* Full details of the DfT figures can be downloaded from their website at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/light-rail-and-tram-statistics-england-year-ending-march-2015. This includes historic data going back to 1983/4 and detailed information on all aspects of the figures which can’t be featured to space and time constraints and also because we don’t want to completely bore you with lots of figures!