MORE people in Winchester are using the train to get to and from work than ever before.

Commuter numbers at Winchester station are on the rise with more than 4,450,000 travelling through the station in 2011/12 – a 5.5 per cent jump compared to last year.

It places the station as the 80th most-used station in the country in the top 100 of the 2,533 stations across mainland Britain, according to figures released by the Office of Rail Regulation.

The only two Hampshire stations busier than Winchester are Southampton Central, 59th and Basingstoke 70th.

Winchester, with a population of only around 40,000 is busier than city stations such as Birmingham International, Wolverhampton, Norwich, and also Stansted Airport.

In Shawford nearly 150,000 people entered and exited the station, a 13.9 per cent spike.

A Winchester architect has said it would be a “missed opportunity” not to develop the area around the station.

Paul Bulkeley, of Snug Projects, who is advocating such development said that it would be a missed opportunity not to develop the area between Gladstone Street and Andover Road.

“That’s a serious number of people passing through the space. We are keen that Winchester doesn’t miss that opportunity,” he said adding that the other train stations on the London-bound route had seen a “significant” number of developments coming forward.

The main landowners, the city and county councils, are discussing their options.

Mark Miller, who is on the planning and transport committee for Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said the figures showed how vital it was to have investment in services at stations.

“We’re pleased with the trend and long may it continue. It’s traditionally where you have got a thriving railway or have got a thriving or developing economy,” he said.

“The area needs looking at. There are opportunities that are not being utilised,” he added.

The increase in passenger figures stands above the county average which is 4.5 per cent but chairman of the South Hampshire Rail Users Group, Denis Fryer, said that it was still below the national average increase of 6.7 per cent.

Mr Fryer added that while the rise in passengers at Shawford is an ongoing trend he didn’t know why that would be the case.

“It may be that passengers find it easier to be dropped off there by car than to drive into traffic-congested Winchester,” he said.

“Broadly speaking, stations in the ‘motorway belt’ between Southampton Airport Parkway and Basingstoke seem to be attracting most extra custom.

“In my years of commuting to London I was aware of people driving from places such as Fareham and Poole to travel by rail from Southampton Airport Parkway.

“It also needs to be borne in mind that this station and Winchester enjoy faster London services, often with better quality carriages, than Eastleigh and Fareham.”