Rail firms make Safer Travel Pledge to attract people back after passengers number fall to record low
Train companies say they are working to attract people back on board after passenger journeys fell to their lowest levels since records began.
New statistics from the Office of Rail and Road suggest rail passenger journeys in Great Britain “fell to the lowest levels of annual passenger usage since at least before 1872, when records started”, with 388 million journeys made in 2020-21 – only a fifth of the 1,739 million taken in the previous 12 months.
The ORR said this “unprecedented fall in usage can be attributed entirely to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”, with people urged to work from home and avoid unnecessary travel.
Graham Richards, ORR director of performance, said: “This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the lowest annual fall since the time series began, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and ticketing revenue.
“Despite this, recent estimates published by the Department for Transport show rail usage has recovered to about 45 per cent of pre-Covid levels by the end of May 2021.
“The ORR continues to work closely to support industry and help passengers back on to the railway safely.”
The Rail Delivery Group, the British rail industry membership body, said it was working to encourage people back onto trains.
Robert Nisbet, RDG director of nations and regions, said: “Despite plummeting passenger numbers during the last year, Britain’s trains have helped to keep key workers and people who cannot work from home on the move throughout the pandemic.
“As restrictions are lifted, the rail industry, through our safer travel pledge, will welcome more people back to train travel and help to support the country’s economic recovery.”
Safer travel pledge
The pledge includes: maximising space, with more room to help with social distancing; boosting cleaning, with trains and stations cleaned more frequently; helping with hygiene, with the installation of hand sanitiser points; and improving information, with alerts about crowded trains and journey disruption.
A spokesman for service operator Northern, which operates services between Leeds and Nottingham, via Chesterfield, said: “It has been a difficult year and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will undoubtedly be felt for some time to come.
“However, those customers returning to the railway will certainly notice some significant enhancements.
“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and we’ve used the year to deliver a much-improved network for them to return to. In the past 12 months alone, Northern has introduced its fleet of new trains, completed the refurbishment of its older trains and delivered millions of pounds worth of improvements at stations, including the installation of more than 600 ticket machines and improved accessibility features.”
A spokeswoman for CrossCountry, which operates services between the South-West and North-East, via Chesterfield, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming customers back on board and continue to put measures in place to keep people safe.
“We are also working with the wider industry to promote the attractions and destinations on our network and have introduced a flexi-season ticket, which will benefit commuters returning to work over the coming months.”
East Midlands Railways, which operates services from London-Sheffield, and Norwich-Liverpool, both via Chesterfield, as well as regional services across Derbyshire, declined to comment.