Rail passenger growth outstrips return of services


The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has described the 20% year-on-year increase in the number of passenger journeys as ‘a reminder that the railway will need more capacity’.

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has released new data showing that 417 million rail passenger journeys were recorded in Great Britain between October and December 2023 and 1,570 million journeys in the year to 31 December.

A short form South Western Railway train last weekend

Both figures represent a 20% increase on the equivalent periods in the previous year - 348 million journeys for the same quarter and 1,300 million journeys in the year as a whole.

A total of 15.2 billion passenger kilometres were travelled in Great Britain in the latest quarter – also 20% increase on the previous year.

Total passenger revenue was £2.6bn in the latest quarter. When adjusted for inflation this is a 20% increase on the £2.2bn in the same quarter in the previous year.

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the increase in passenger journeys and revenues was ‘really encouraging’.

He said: ‘It is clear that there needs to be rail reform and a long-term rail strategy, including a plan for more capacity, to deliver the connectivity, economic, levelling-up, and sustainability benefits everyone wants to see.’

The ORR also disclosed that passenger vehicle kilometres, which reflect the number of carriages on the network only rose by 13% in October to December 2023, compared to the equivalent quarter in 2022.

This is 92% of the figure for October to December 2019.

Rail Partners, which represents train operating companies (TOCs) said passengers are ‘still not using trains at the levels seen before the pandemic’, arguing that this underlines the urgent need for rail reform and to give its members commercial freedoms, but declined to comment on TOCs’ failure to increase services to match rising demand.

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