Tram and light rail usage falls in 2019/20

Manchester Metrolink's Trafford Depot.

The Department for Transport has released its latest statistics for tram and light rail usage in England for the year 2019/2020, which show the biggest decrease in almost 30 years.

The number of passenger journeys has fallen below 2016/17 levels. There were 263.4 million passenger journeys made on the eight light-rail and tram systems in England, a 4.2% decrease (11.4 million passenger journeys) compared with the previous year. Outside London, passenger journeys decreased by 4.0% to 119.4 million and in London by 4.3% to 144.0 million in the year ending March 2020.

A West Midlands Metro tram at St Pauls.

The decreases were fairly uniform across the board.  The only system that showed an increase was Manchester Metrolink, with passenger journeys up 1.1%, though miles travelled and revenue were both slightly down.

The systems covered by the statistics are:

  • In London
    • Docklands Light Railway
    • London Tramlink
  • Outside London
    • Blackpool Tramway
    • Manchester Metrolink
    • Nottingham Express Transit
    • Midland Metro
    • Sheffield Supertram
    • Tyne and Wear Metro

The average light rail and tram journey was 4.3 miles in England. In London average journey length was shorter at 3.3 miles, compared to 5.5 miles in England outside of London. These figures have remained unchanged since 2018/19.

The report makes the point that the period covered includes the first few weeks of nationwide movement restrictions in March 2020. While it draws no conclusions as to whether this would have reduced the annual figures by the 4.2% mentioned, it must be close. Two weeks is approximately 1/24 of a year, or 4.2%, so having no passengers for two weeks would have that result.

The statistics therefore have to be viewed as what they are – statistics. And you know what they say about statistics…

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