A mesmerizing illustration of shifting demographics in the U.K.

Maybe you don’t need a data visualization to know that the U.K.’s rail system is growing at an awesome and almost troubling rate. According to a report unveiled by a Freedom of Information Act request, Network Rail, which handles most of the U.K.’s rail infrastructure, expected 3 percent annual passenger growth in the London area for the next five years. Instead, it got 8 percent in just the first nine months of 2014. The result is packed cars, squeezed platforms, and delayed trains, particularly during the morning rush.

Still, actually seeing 2.75 billion passenger trips between 2014 and 2015—the highest figure ever, according to the Office of Rail and Road—is believing. And the effect is particularly staggering when you note, as the advocacy group Campaign for Better Transport does, that the passenger rail saw just 1.3 billion trips between 1997 and 1998.

So let’s look at that growth. Below is an interactive map from Campaign for Better Transport. It uses data from the Office of Rail and Road to chart the transformation in rail ridership by station usage between 1997 and 2015. Zoom in on Greater London to watch the boom in that region, but zoom out and you can see populations shift around Manchester, Newcastle and—way out west—Plymouth.

A note for the data hounds: ORR data is based on ticket sales, and tends to treat clusters of stations as a group, rather than individually—you can read more about its limitation here.

But the takeaways are crystal clear. The U.K.’s rail network is well-used and even occasionally well-loved. But its ferocious growth demands more forward thinking and planning for the future.

H/t: London Reconnections

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