Rail usage doubles after Covid collapse


More than twice the number of rail journeys were made between April 2021 and March 2022 than during the previous year.

Official figures released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that a total of 990 million journeys were made in Britain over the last year.

This compares to just 388 million journeys were made in 2020-21 as journeys fell to levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century. Passenger revenue also increased in the last year to £5.9bn, which was nearly three times more than the £2.0bn a year earlier and equates to 54% of the £11bn generated pre-pandemic.

The ORR said that long-distance journeys recorded the highest relative usage compared to pre-pandemic figures, with London North Eastern Railway seeing a return of 83.3% of passengers compared to usage pre-pandemic – the most of any operator.

Journeys made in the regions were at 58.3% of pre-pandemic levels, with London and the South East achieving 55.9% of pre-pandemic demand.

Although the largest rail franchise, Govia Thameslink Railway, had the highest rail usage in 2021-22 with 179.0 million journeys made, this was 51.3% of the number or journeys two years ago. Heathrow Express (30.6%) recorded the lowest relative usage this year.

The ORR said its statistics show that 83.4% of passenger journeys were made using 'ordinary tickets' such as Advance, Off-Peak and Anytime/Peak tickets.

The percentage of journeys made using season tickets fell in both absolute terms and as a proportion of the lower number of journeys made this year, accounting for just 16.9% of journeys – half of pre-pandemic levels. As a consequence, season ticket revenue of £526m was just 24.0% of the £2.2bn generated two years ago.

Although the switch away from season tickets might have been expected to see revenue recover faster than passenger numbers, it is known that the early recovery was driven by surging leisure demand, meaning that the types of ordinary tickets used may have been of the cheaper types.

The statistics were released in advance of this week’s national strike in the sector, which has been prompted in part by the industry’s claims that it needs to cut costs in the face of falling demand for rail travel.

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