Passenger numbers were down at Basingstoke and Deane's railway stations last year – but it has not dented hopes that railway use will revive after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pressure group Railfuture said the impact of current travel restrictions is causing a “temporary blip” in the growth of railway usage.

Office of Road and Rail data shows an estimated 6.5 million passengers using Basingstoke and Deane's four stations in 2019-20.

That's 321,100 fewer than the previous year, a fall of 4.7%.

Unsurprisingly as the largest station, Basingstoke was the busiest with 5.7 million entries and exits by passengers, followed by Bramley (Hampshire), 302,000.

The least used station was Overton with passenger usage at 198,000. It was followed by Whitchurch (Hampshire), 269,000.

Across the South East, usage of railway stations decreased by 9.1 million to 390.5 million in 2019-20, while across Britain it fell 1.1% to 3 billion.

The ORR has put the national reduction in journeys down to a “dramatic drop” in passengers in March due to Covid-19 restrictions, with lockdown introduced on March 23.

But Railfuture, an independent organisation with 20,000 members, is hopeful the railway system will recover.

Bruce Williamson, a spokesman for the group, said: “I am very confident that the railways will bounce back when Covid-19 is over.

“We can’t ignore the fact the world has changed and people working from home may stay put – but I still feel for the most part, things will return to normal.

“Considering the underlying trend of increased rail usage over the past 30 years, we have to look at Covid-19 as a temporary blip.”

In Basingstoke and Deane there were 37 passenger journeys for every person living in the area in 2019-20 compared to the national rate of 75.

Jay Symonds, ORR senior statistical analyst, said: “The dramatic drop in passenger numbers towards the end of March due to Covid-19 explains much of the drop in usage compared to last year.”

He added: “With numbers staying at historically low levels during 2020, there is no doubt that next year will look a lot different.”