Liverpool Street station named country's busiest after passenger numbers rocket due to Elizabeth line

Liverpool Street station has been named as the busiest railway station in the UK after passenger numbers soared due to the extraordinary popularity of the Elizabeth line.

The station rose from fourth place last year after 50m more passengers were estimated to have used it in the 12 months to April.

This took passenger numbers at Liverpool Street to 80.4m and could add weight to the controversial plans to redevelop the mainline station to boost capacity – proposals that are opposed by conservationists due to the impact on the heritage in the City of London.

The figures, published on Thursday by the Office of Rail and Road, show the opening of the Elizabeth line also had a massive impact elsewhere, with Paddington rising to second place, up four places, with 59.2 million entries and exits.

Paddington became second busiest station in the UK (UK)
Paddington became second busiest station in the UK (UK)

Farringdon, a key interchange between the Tube, Thameslink and the “Lizzie line”, rose 29 places to number nine, with 31.5m passengers.

In addition, Tottenham Court Road’s Elizabeth line station, which opened in May 2022, enters the list for the first time as the seventh busiest station with 34.9 million entries and exits.

Waterloo, which was in first place, drops down to third (57.8m), while London Bridge is fourth (47.7m).

The ORR figures come as Transport for London commissioner Andy Lord revealed the Elizabeth line had hit a new record, with 769,000 journeys on Wednesday December 6.

More than 4.3m journeys a week are now being made on the £20bn line, which has rapidly become the busiest rail line in the UK. It has carried 270m passengers since opening in May 2022.

Feras Alshaker, director of planning and performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said: “Our official statistics show how the full opening of the Elizabeth line has changed the way people travel into and across the capital.

“Waterloo had been the busiest station in Britain for all but one of the previous 18 years. The busiest stations outside of London remain more stable with Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester leading the list.”

But the capital's transport watchdog, London TravelWatch, said the figures highlighted the need to tackle an increasing problem with reliability on the Elizabeth line, especially west of Paddington.

A spokesman for London TravelWatch said: “It’s positive to see a post-pandemic recovery of sorts on the railway even after all the disruptive strike action that’s taken place this year.

“Passengers who use some of the busiest stations in the country including Liverpool Street, Paddington and Waterloo will want to see much more reliable services in the year ahead. In the most recent rail industry ‘on time’ scores, punctuality on the TfL Elizabeth line actually got worse.

"This will be no surprise to passengers who have experienced some really challenging incidents recently.”

Commuters walk along a platform at Waterloo train station (PA)
Commuters walk along a platform at Waterloo train station (PA)

Last year’s figures had Waterloo in first place, with 41.4m entries and exits in 2021/22, followed by Victoria (36.7m), London Bridge (33.3m), Liverpool Street (32.1m) and Stratford (28.1m).

During the pandemic, Stratford had been the busiest station in the country, when Waterloo dropped to fourth place due to the collapse in commuter travel.

In the 2019-20 year immediately before covid, Waterloo had 86.9 million entries and exits and was the busiest station for 16 consecutive years.

TfL has also announced that Crossrail, as the Elizabeth line was known during its construction phase, has formally reached completion after two decades.

But Mayor Sadiq Khan has raised concerns with Network Rail about ongoing issues with the unreliable infrastructure the “Lizzie line” trains run on west of Paddington.

Multiple investigations are ongoing into the stranding of about 4,000 passengers for four hours last Thursday night when overhead power cables broke near Acton.

Passengers were stranded for hours inside trains stuck on the Elizabeth Line last Thursday (via REUTERS)
Passengers were stranded for hours inside trains stuck on the Elizabeth Line last Thursday (via REUTERS)

Four Elizabeth line trains, two Heathrow Express services and a Great Western Railways intercity service were brought to a standstill. Passengers were eventually evacuated around 11pm.

Howard Smith, director of the Elizabeth line, said it had been a "transformational new railway for London".

He said: “Liverpool Street, Paddington, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Stratford all being in the top 10 busiest stations in the UK, and four of the 10 most popular journeys being on the Elizabeth line, shows the popularity of the railway.”