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Light rail ridership down in Sheffield, Midlands and Blackpool

Sheffield Supertram, Midland Metro and Blackpool Tramway have all experienced declines in passenger ridership during the last 12 months, despite figures increasing nationally, new government statistics have revealed. 

The ‘Light rail and tram statistics: 2014 to 2015’ report showed that in the last financial year 239.8 million passengers journeys were made on the eight light rail and tram systems in England, a 5.6% increase on the previous year. 

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The stats show that 59% of these journeys were inside London, on Docklands Light Railway and London Tramlink. 

However, three systems experienced a year of decline. Sheffield Supertram, which carried out disruptive engineering works between April and September 2014 (different phases of which remain ongoing) as part of a five-year £32m rail replacement project, saw passenger journeys fall 8.5% to 11.5 million. It was the third year of decline for the system. 

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A spokesperson for Supertram told RTM: “Working with the SYPTE, we are undertaking a vital programme of investment work to help maintain the network for decades to come. This has resulted in a number of changes to our network and has included bus replacement services operating instead of trams at various times on parts of the network over the past three years. 

“Independent research shows that 92% of our customers are satisfied with their tram services and we will continue to make the necessary improvements to deliver even better services over the longer term and attract even more people on to our trams.” 

Also undergoing rail replacement and construction works in the last 12 months, Midland Metro saw its passenger journeys fall to 4.4m, a 6.1% decrease. Journeys on the system have fallen year-on-year since 2011-12 when 4.9 million journeys were recorded. 

A Centro spokesperson on behalf of Midland Metro told us: “The 2014-15 figures cover an unplanned six month closure of Metro services into Wolverhampton city centre after old mine workings were discovered during track replacement work. This had an inevitable effect on passenger numbers. 

“However, we are confident that the Metro can look forward to major growth as the network continues to expand. There is a fleet of brand new Urbos 3 trams now running, we have permission to expand the system down to Birmingham Eastside and Edgbaston via Five Ways, we have already commenced work on taking it to Centenary Square, and the city centre extension from Snow Hill station to Birmingham New Street is planned to open later this year. 

“All of these factors will open up the system to millions of new customers as well as serve existing passengers, of whom the most recent Passenger Focus survey recorded satisfaction levels of 92%.”

Blackpool Transport, the operator of the Blackpool Tramway, which recently completed a major £100m upgrade, saw passenger figures fall by 5.9% to 4.1 million in the last year. 

Bob Mason, service delivery director at Blackpool Transport, told us: “Since the modernisation of the tramway all English NCTS card holders could use the free pass on the trams as a discretion paid for by Lancashire County Council and Blackpool Council. 

“From April 2014 Lancashire County Council withdrew this discretionary scheme and therefore only Blackpool NCTS card holders are permitted to use the concessionary passes on the trams. 

“As a result of this we have seen modal shift in concessions from tram to bus and overall passenger numbers between service 1 (which runs parallel to the tramway) and the tramway are up by 120,000 passengers per annum or 2.32%.” 

Despite Sheffield Supertram, Midland Metro and Blackpool Tramway seeing a reduction in passenger journeys they all scored well in journey satisfaction, according to data from Transport Focus. Blackpool had a satisfaction rate of 95%, Sheffield 92% and Midland Metro 90%.  

Speaking about the national light rail picture, transport minister Andrew Jones MP said: “Good local transport makes it easier for people to get to work and see their family and friends. The fact that passenger numbers on tram and light rail are at record levels shows our investment has been worthwhile. 

“The improvements we are making to these services are part of our long term economic plan to create a transport system people can rely on, which has the added benefit of creating jobs, growth and opportunity.” 

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(Graphs and diagrams sourced from: Light Rail and Tram Statistics: England 2014/15)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Long Branch Mike   10/06/2015 at 14:30

A more accurate and less misleading lede would be "Light rail ridership down in Sheffield, Midlands, & Blackpool due to system improvements".

RTM   10/06/2015 at 14:53

That's not true for Blackpool though, as the quote suggests - ridership is down there because it's no longer free for a large group of people.

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