As the Public Inquiry into Phase 2 of East West Rail begins today in Milton Keynes I have been looking at the latest station usage data. Estimates of Station Usage for 2017-18, for all stations in Great Britain, were published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) in December 2018. There were almost 2 million entries and exits at Bicester Village station representing 51% increase in usage compared with the previous year.
East West Rail Phase 1 was completed in December 2016 and the latest estimates include the first full year’s data for Chiltern Railways’ Oxford to Marylebone train service.
Annual Estimates of Station Usage – data from orr.gov.uk
|Bicester Village||1,979,000||1,311,000||413,000||+668,000 [+51%]|
|Oxford Parkway||939,000||810,000||275,000||+129,000 [+16%]|
|Bicester North||792,000||923,000||1,417,000||-132,000 [-14%]|
Nationally, usage was flat while the general trend across the south east was down. Several years of above average fare increases are now clearly having an impact. Yet on the Chiltern route, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Warwick, Warwick Parkway, Solihull and High Wycombe all showed small increases. Bicester North showed a 14% drop in usage while Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill also saw small decreases. On the North Cotswolds line and other routes into Oxford usage also fell.
It is clear that most of the 1.35 million increase at Oxford will be due to commuting on the new Chiltern service, particularly from Bicester. The 14-minute journey is attractive compared with the congested A34. While Oxford will have seem some growth from further afield, opening of the new Westgate shopping centre will also be a factor.
Locally there has also been some abstraction from Bicester North to Bicester Village. Despite the more limited car parking facilities, the train service between Bicester Village and Marylebone is now clearly preferred. And commuting to Oxford looks set to grow further when the service increases to 5tph from Bicester with EWR Phase 2 from 2023. Back in 2007-08 the equivalent figures for Bicester Town and Bicester North were 52,000 and 911,000 – how things have changed in 10 years…