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How Covid-19 hit passenger numbers at Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and Stansted railway stations

The immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on commuters from Bishop’s Stortford, Stansted Mountfitchet and Sawbridgeworth railway stations is revealed in newly published figures.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) data for the year from the start of April 2019 to the end of March 2020 – which includes only the first week of lockdown – show year-on-year drops.

At Bishop’s Stortford, the 186th busiest station on the rail network, the 3,074,350 passenger entries and exits – an average of 8,400 a day – were down 5.7% on 2018-19.

Top five busiest stations in each region (43377270)
Top five busiest stations in each region (43377270)

Movements were down 3.5% to 578,766 (1,581 a day) at 830th-ranked Stansted Mountfitchet and down 3.3% to 538,204 (1,470 a day) at Sawbridgeworth (871st).

Numbers at Stansted Airport were down 13.3% year on year. The effect of Covid-19 on demand for flights was compounded by engineering works in October 2019.

Nevertheless, the airport station was the third busiest in the Eastern region, with 8,474,784 passenger entries and exits – 23,155 a day – behind Cambridge (11.6m) and Chelmsford (8.6m) and ahead of Watford Junction (8,436,358) and St Albans City (7,375,158).

Berney Arms (43377268)
Berney Arms (43377268)

Even with the decline, all were much busier than Britain’s least used station, Berney Arms in Norfolk, where the 42 entries and exits in the year – less than one a week – were down 90% because of signalling upgrade work. London's Waterloo topped the chart for the 16th consecutive year.

On March 16, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised everyone in the UK against "non-essential" travel and urged them to work from home. Pubs, restaurants, cafés and clubs were ordered to close on March 20 and the country went into lockdown on March 26.

Restrictions were lifted on July 4, but on September 21 the Government ended rail franchising after 24 years and introduced Emergency Recovery Management Agreements (ERMAs) to address the continuing impact of the pandemic on the railway.

Jay Symonds, ORR senior statistical analyst, said: “With numbers staying at historically low levels during 2020, there's no doubt that next year’s figures will look a lot different.”

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