In possibly not the most shocking news of the year the latest light rail data released for the Department for Transport has shown a drastic fall in passenger journeys with an overall decrease of 69% ranging from 57.4% on London Tramlink to 81.8% on Nottingham Express Transit.
This data is released annually by the Department for Transport and up until the pandemic has seen a positive picture as passenger numbers continued to rise – helped a lot by the regular extensions being opened on the English light rail systems. The main data includes those light rail systems in England, so Blackpool, Docklands Light Railway, London Tramlink, Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit, Stagecoach Supertram, Tyne and Wear Metro and West Midlands Metro.
This years release was always going to see some challenging figures as with the country starting the period of review under lockdown and then remaining in some form of restriction throughout with for much of the time people being encouraged not to make any unnecessary journeys. In fact there is probably very little you can take from the figures this year as it is like comparing chalk to cheese as the past year has been unlike any other year since these records were kept.
We won’t dwell too much on the figures but provide the passenger numbers data below for the record (we haven’t included any other data but that can be found by following the link at the bottom of the page):
Passenger numbers by system
Blackpool Tramway – 1.1m (2019/20 4.8m) decrease – 76.6%
Docklands Light Railway – 39.7m (2019/20 116.8m) decrease – 66.0%
London Tramlink – 11.6m (2019/20 27.2m) decrease – 57.4%
Manchester Metrolink – 10.3m (2019/20 44.3m) decrease – 76.7%
Nottingham Express Transit – 3.4m (2019/20 18.7m) decrease – 81.8%
Stagecoach Supertram – 2.8m (2019/20 10.5m) decrease – 73.1%
Tyne and Wear Metro – 9.4m (2019/20 33.1m) decrease – 71.6%
West Midlands Metro – 3.4m (2019/20 8.0m) decrease – 58.3%
Vehicle mileage has not fallen as dramatically as the passenger numbers with the DfT giving themselves a pat on the back for that as a result of their financial support for systems which have helped them to maintain services for key workers.
As we mention every year this data only relates to the eight systems in England, however, the more detailed figures do include Edinburgh Trams. This shows a very similar picture as passenger numbers fell to 0.9m from 7.1m the previous year.
One other thing to possibly call out is that according to the release that since the end of March 2020, Manchester Metrolink has gained 0.2 route miles while West Midlands Metro has lost 0.2 route miles. Its not clear what these changes are as we can’t remember any sections of the West Midlands Metro closing since the end of March 2020 while on Metrolink the Trafford Park extension opened before that date so where that 0.2 miles has come from in either case is a mystery (unless I’ve completely missed something!). It is also said there have been no changes in “number of carriages” over the past year although we have seen additional trams enter service on Metrolink (admittingly only one had carried passengers before March 2021 though).
Looking at the positives hopefully next year we’ll be reporting on dramatic increases in passenger numbers (although still unlikely to reach the pre-pandemic levels).
- If you’d like to take a look at all of the statistics released by the DfT you can do so by visiting this page: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/light-rail-and-tram-statistics-england-year-ending-march-2021 (the second link contains a Zip file of all the various tables released).