PASSENGER numbers were down at railway stations in the Braintree district last year as more people stayed at home during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Statistics from the Office of Rail and Road show an estimated 903,000 passengers used Braintree's eight stations in 2020-21.

This was 80 per cent fewer than in 2019-20 - when a whopping 4.5 million travelled on trains in the area.

The busiest station over the past year was Witham, which saw 479,000 entries and exits by passengers.

But this was down from 2.3 million the year before - and the lowest number of passengers since comparable records began in 1997.

This was followed by Braintree with 175,000, and Kelvedon which saw 120,000 passengers use the station.

The quietest station was White Notley which welcomed 3,160 passengers last year - compared to 10,700 in 2019-20.

Across Great Britain usage of railway stations fell from 3 billion in 2019-20 to 687 million – a fall of 77 per cent.

The figures are based primarily on ticket sales.

Andy Bagnall, director-general at industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The station usage figures show how the rail industry kept people moving for the first year of the pandemic.

“Some of the entries on the list reflect where people like key workers were travelling from and also the acceleration of changes to how people are travelling after the pandemic.

“Rail companies are working together to welcome people back and the recent increase in passengers continues to both reflect and support the nation’s recovery.”

Separate figures from a YouGov poll of 56,000 adults show 53 per cent of people in the East of England think their local train services are very good or fairly good.