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Official report exposes problems in forecasting passenger demand for new rail stations

A Department for Transport and Transport Scotland commissioned report by Steer Davis Gleave has revealed major problems in forecasting demand for new rail stations.

It found that actaul demand for stations was rarely within 20% of that forecast. Steer Davis Gleave examined 23 stations opened since rail privatisation and found that actaul demand was within 20% of forecast demand in just nine cases.

The consultant’s report to government said that its comparison of observed and forecast demand showed that a “significant proportion” of forecasts werre within 20% of observed demand, and that there was no obvious tendency to over-forecasting or under-forecasting. But the figures are a concern, with the business case of major schemes such as High Speed 2 heavily reliant on forecast demand.

Steer Davis Gleeve found that station with the greatest different between forecast and actual demand is Ebbw Vale Parkway, where the actual demand in 2008/9 was 252,000 passenger journeys compared to 46,000 forecast.

But Newcraighall station was built expecting 467,600 passengers per year, but has only handled 176,975, 62% less than planned.

The consultant said that for a number of stations, and Alloa, Edinburgh Park and Newcraighall in particular, there was insufficient information available on how the forecasts had been prepared and that a more standardised approach was needed.

 

Readers' comments (1)

  • Have to agree with the need for better forecasting, but the starting baseline is just as important as the future projections.

    JRC (jrc.org.uk) has undertaken extensive station counts on the West Anglia lines in London and Home Counties, on behalf of the West Anglia Routes Group, with the support of the train operator National Express and TfL. TfL London Rail moderated the results of the counts.

    The counts show that ORR revenue-based station usage estimates (which are the main nationally published source) are on average 75-125% below actual use in London travelcard zones, and 10-35% below actual use in the Home Counties. There is a time lag in the ORR published data which is one factor, and the arrival of Oyster Pay-as-you-go on London rail lines is another.

    However the biggest factor in the variance appears to be the ORR reliance on ticket sales and notional allocations of travelcard and Oysterflows to define usage, rather than hard counts at the individual stations. JRC data is now being used by National Express, TfL, and the short-listed Greater Anglia franchise bidders for train service and project business case planning.

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