Assessment Report: Estimates of Station Usage (produced by the Office of Rail and Road)

Judgement on National Statistics Status

  • Estimates of station usage provide a valuable, trusted source of information about the use of the rail network across Great Britain (GB). They are used by a broad range of people, who appreciate the granularity of the data and the ability to use these statistics for further analysis.
  • We identified several ways in which the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) should develop the statistics in order to meet the highest standards of the Code of Practice for Statistics and achieve National Statistics status. These are described in chapters one to three of this report. As we identified the improvements required during the assessment, ORR has made great progress towards addressing them. ORR has committed to further actions which will be carried out before the next release of the statistics in December 2020.
  • Once ORR demonstrates that these steps have been taken, we will recommend that the UK Statistics Authority designate estimates of station usage as National Statistics.

 

Key Findings

Quality

  • One of the main strengths of estimates of station usage is that they provide a data series going back to 1997/98. This means that users can explore trends over time and combine the data with their own local knowledge to understand the impact of infrastructure projects or changes to the usage of the rail network.
  • Estimates of station usage are based on appropriate data and methods. The primary source for these statistics is ticket sales data. This is the best available source without fully gated stations or manual passenger counts at every station. ORR works well with its contractor Steer to improve the methodology used to calculate the statistics each year, while balancing the need for consistency to allow users to make comparisons over time.
  • The use of ticket sales data as the primary source for these statistics results in several limitations. Although ORR publishes information about data quality and methods, it should be more detailed, and be available and communicated in a more accessible way to enable people to understand the caveats and use the statistics appropriately. We also consider that existing quality assurance practices carried out during the production process should be developed and put into a structured framework in order to further mitigate the risk of errors.

Public Value

  • Estimates of station usage provide unique information about each of the approximately 2,500 mainline rail stations in GB. This granularity is one of the main reasons that the statistics are of interest to a very broad range to users: they are relevant to anyone no matter where they live. The team at ORR has a good understanding that the statistics are used by a variety of different users. A better understanding of what people do and how they interact with the statistics will allow ORR to prioritise improvements and provide greater insight for users. We encourage ORR to continue its work to explore the underlying data and to work more closely with stakeholders to make use of their local knowledge. Providing contextual information, for example about infrastructure projects or wider issues such as the impact of COVID-19, will support users to understand the statistics.

Trustworthiness

  • ORR is a well trusted and respected producer of official statistics. Consequently, the ORR website is often the first place that users go to find statistics and data about the rail industry. The analytical team at ORR is well managed, responsive to information requests and knowledgeable on issues which impact the GB rail network. ORR currently publishes several National Statistics which were reviewed by OSR via a compliance check in 2019. We found that there are good practices in place to ensure independent decision making and orderly release of ORR’s official statistics.
  • To enhance transparency, in addition to the information on user engagement for its broader set of official statistics, ORR has published an improvement plan for estimates of station usage that covers both short and mid-to-long-term developments. Maintaining this plan will keep users informed of changes, give them the opportunity to shape developments, and allow them to monitor progress against the plan. We would like to see ORR increase direct communication with users outside the rail industry. This will ensure that all users are informed about changes to the publication schedule or revisions to the statistics.

Next Steps

  • ORR is aiming to meet the requirements described in Tables 1, 2 and 3 by its next annual release of the statistics in December 2020. Once ORR reports back to OSR on how it has met the requirements within this report, the UK Statistics Authority will take advice from OSR and decide whether to award the National Statistics designation. We expect to have a decision before the next publication.