New statistics published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) show that rail travel in the North West is on the rise with a 3.1 per cent increase in passengers journeys during 2011-12.
But rail campaigners have said this figure could be even higher if more money was invested in the region’s railway network and by operators.
The data highlights passenger journeys within and between 11 regions in Great Britain – East of England, East Midlands, London, North East, North West, Scotland, South East, South West, Wales, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber.
It shows that in the period there were 84.9 million journeys starting and finishing within the North West itself – the highest number of journeys within a region outside of London - up from 82.9 million the year before.
The total number of journeys in the region was 115 million.
Greater Manchester and Merseyside account for most of the journeys within the North West, but the number of people using trains in Lancashire grew from 2,072,000 in 2010-11 to 2,165,000 in 2011-12.
The number of journeys between other regions and the North West increased by 5.2 per cent in 2011-12.
Aidan Turner-Bishop, from the Lancashire group of the Campaign for Better Transport, said he believed more people were using trains because of the high cost of motoring, but that even greater numbers could be attracted with investment in rail links.
He said: “It’s a national trend which is very interesting.
“Young people are using cars less and less and fewer people are learning to drive, taking lessons and buying cars, because they can’t afford it.
“A few years ago at the age of 17 you would buy a car as soon as possible, it used to be a rite of passage, but that’s easing off now.
“So there is an increased demand on trains but there is less investment in new trains in the North West than down in London where they are spending lots of money, which is why there is a lot of overcrowding.
“They will say it’s going to be electrified soon but even then we’re getting hand-me-downs from London.
“There isn’t the capacity and that’s why you get overcrowding.”
Mr Turner-Bishop said it was important to provide more carriages and to open up through services on routes such as Preston to Liverpool.
He said: “The potential is great because there is a long term decline in private motoring.”