Rail commuting downs two-third on pre-pandemic level

Published on : Friday, September 10, 2021

The commuting by rail, which collapsed as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, is still two-thirds down on the level in early 2020.

The new independent research from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators and Network Rail, shows that commuting by train is now at 33 per cent of pre-pandemic levels – while car journeys have reverted to pre-pandemic levels. Overall, rail passenger numbers are at 60 per cent of 2019 figures.

The organisation says that it could take years to return to numbers seen in 2019.

The financial impact is deeply concerning senior rail figures: commuters’ season tickets provided the bedrock of the £10bn in fares collected annually until 2020.

In addition, the RDG says the dramatic cut in numbers is having a “dire impact” on city centres.

The research done by WPI Economics for the group shows the extent to which city centre coffee shops, pubs and retailers could also suffer if rail commuting fails to recover.

The train commuters travelling to city centres typically spend £12 on food and drink, £8 on shopping and £6 on entertainment and culture on each journey.

Andy Bagnall, its director-general, said that for many former Monday-to-Friday commuters, the future is undoubtedly going to be a mix of home and office working.

But the extent to which people return to the workplace and whether or not they take the train to get there is going to be crucial.

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