A STAGGERING rise in passengers using Knutsford railway station has seen footfall rise by more than 250,000 in the last decade, recent figures reveal.

The amount of people passing through the station rose by more than 50,000 last year to 454,158, but in 2003 this number was just 161,042.

Figures from the Office of Rail Regulation showed in 2011/12 that 398,942 people were entering and exiting Knutsford station and numbers hit their peak by in March last year.

The highest percentage increase in the area came at Plumley, where footfall rose by 18 per cent to 25,420 while Mobberley witnessed an increase of 1,416 to 18,820.

John Oates, chairman of Mid Cheshire Rail Users Association, said: “Our trains are getting busier and busier,” he said. “MCRUA and passengers were not surprised to see the scale of the increases on the mid Cheshire line in the official figures for the 12 months to 31 March last year.

“Many stations were well above the national average increase of just over three per cent. The biggest increase is at Plumley, then Knutsford with 14 per cent, Mobberley with eight per cent and Ashley with seven per cent.”

Mr Oates feels the higher than average increase can be explained by workers from Barclays Bank at Radbroke Hall and students receiving their education in Greenbank, near Northwich.

He added: “Much of this extra increase relates to a large increase in Barclays Bank workers using the train then the free buses from Knutsford Station to Radbroke Hall.

“Also, students travelling to the schools and the college near Greenbank station by train following the withdrawal of some of the council supported scholar transport.

“But it’s not just the Barclays workers and the scholars, as trains at other times are also busier with passengers travelling to the attractions along the line.

“This all adds support to the proposal for a half-hourly train service for the line to help reduce the traffic problems in Knutsford and improve our local economy,” said Mr Oates.

A Northern Rail spokesperson added: “We have experienced a staggering 42 per cent growth in passenger numbers over the past decade and last year across our network we saw a 1.5 per cent rise in station usage.

“Carrying an additional 24 million people every year presents us with some challenges but it also shows just how popular travelling by train is today in the north.

“Planning for the next franchise will allow us to identify these challenges and help ensure we play a central role in driving forward these agendas and lobbying for funding and implementation.”