Train passenger numbers sink to lowest level in 150 years

Passenger numbers on British railways hit their lowest level in at least 150 years in 2020/21, new figures show.

Only 388 million trips were made in the 12 months to the end of March when demand for travel collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Rail and Road Regulator (ORR) said.

This is only 22% of the total of 1.739 billion in the previous year and the lowest annual figure since 1872.

In the period from April to June 2020, there was the lowest demand for rail travel with just 35 million journeys.

After the coronavirus restrictions were relaxed, 133 million journeys were made in the following three months and 139 million journeys between October and December 2020.

However, the imposition of another national lockdown resulted in only 80 million trips being made in the first three months of 2021.

Passenger revenue in 2020/21 was £ 1.9 billion, just 18% of the £ 10.4 billion generated 12 months earlier.

Graham Richards, director of planning and performance at ORR, said, “This unprecedented drop in passenger numbers, the lowest annual drop since the start of the series, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and ticket revenue.

“Nevertheless, the latest estimates by the Ministry of Transport show that rail use has recovered to around 45% of its pre-Covid level by the end of May 2021.”

He added that the regulator “continues to work closely to support the industry and help passengers get back on the train safely”.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Despite falling passenger numbers over the past year, Britain’s trains have helped keep key workers and people unable to work from home on the move during the pandemic.

“If the restrictions are lifted, our promise of safer travel will allow the rail industry to welcome more people back to rail travel and help support the country’s economic recovery.”


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