English Light Rail journeys suffer small fall for first time in eight years

Over the past few years the number of passengers has been on the increase almost across the board but this overall increase has come to a halt in the latest figures released which have shown 416,000 fewer journeys were made in 2017/8 compared to 2016/7. Its not all bad news though as Manchester Metrolink, Nottingham Express Transit and the Blackpool Tramway did all see increases on the previous years stats.

By its very nature this article contains a lot of figures so if that isn’t your bag you may want to skip to the very end of the article where the overall figures are given!

The stats – released by the Department for Transport – concentrate solely on tram and light rail systems in England, as well as the more traditional on street tramways they also include the Docklands Light Railway (which contains 45% of the total number of passengers!) and the Tyne and Wear Metro. The figures are split into two with those within London (so the DLR and London Tramlink) and those outside of London (everything else!) and overall there has been a fall in London but an increase in the provinces.

Starting with the good news there were increases on the ever extending Manchester Metrolink (9% rise with 41.2 million passenger journeys recorded – by the far the most outside of London and only bettered by the DLR), Nottingham Express Transit (up by 8.4% to 17.8 million) and the Blackpool Tramway (5.2 million passenger journeys – an increase of 1.9%). The increases for NET and Blackpool are made the more impressive as fewer vehicle miles were covered this time around (NET 1.9% lower and Blackpool down by 0.2%) whilst those for Manchester were completed on the same vehicle mileage.

Every other system saw a decrease, the biggest percentage fall being on Midland Metro where only 5.7 million passenger journeys were recorded (down by 8.6%). This can largely be put down to the extended closure of the tramway from Priestfield to Wolverhampton St George’s for rail replacement work so hopefully these numbers will see a reverse next year.

Outside of London there was also a 3.5% fall (to 36.4 million journeys) on the Tyne and Wear Metro and a decrease of 2.3% on Stagecoach Supertram (12.3 million journeys). For Supertram the 2018/9 figures will be interesting to see as there may be extra passengers once the Tram-Train service commences operation (presuming they will be included) but extended rail replacement works this summer are likely to see fewer passengers carried.

In London and both the DLR and Tramlink saw falls. On the DLR – still carrying by far the most passengers – 119.6 million journeys were recorded, which was a fall of 2.2% with a small increase in mileage (0.6%). For London Tramlink 29.1 million passenger journeys were taken in 2017/8 which was a fall in 1.4% but mileage was actually up by 3.4% following the introduction of the new improved timetable.

Many of the systems which have seen decreases have been affected by various factors with a significant amount of engineering works taking place whilst the DLR was also affected by strike action in early 2018.

Overall 267.2 million passenger journeys were recorded on all systems – a fall of 0.2% (or 416,000 passenger journeys). The year for the stats ends at the end of March. Despite this small fall this year the past 10 years – which have unprecedented expansion across the country – has seen an increase of 43%. The continual increase in passengers was always likely to come and this is the first year for a while that no new extensions have opened so perhaps it was always inevitable especially with various periods of rail replacement work.

One other thing of note in the stats is that for Blackpool 28 trams are listed as being part of the fleet so this seems to include the “B” fleet Balloons in addition to the Flexity2 trams.

Although not included in the main release as it only concentrates on English systems the overall stats for Edinburgh Trams (already reported in depth previously) are given with 6.8 million passenger journeys (up from 5.8 million) with a passenger revenue of £13.2 million.

The stats released by the DfT go into much more details of various categories but if you think the above article is a bit stat heavy and boring that would be nothing compared to how it would be if we listed all of them! If you want to read the stats in your own time they are available on the DfT website.

Passenger numbers (by system)

Docklands Light Railway – 119.6 million (2016/7 – 122.3 million)

Manchester Metrolink – 41.2 million (2016/7 – 37.8 million)

Tyne and Wear Metro – 36.4 million (2016/7 – 37.7 million)

London Tramlink – 29.1 million (2016/7 – 29.5 million)

Nottingham Express Transit – 17.8 million (2016/7 – 16.4 million)

Stagecoach Supertram – 12.3 million (2016/7 – 12.6 million)

Midland Metro – 5.7 million (2016/7 – 6.2 million)

Blackpool Tramway – 5.2 million (2016/7 – 5.1 million)

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