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Rail journeys across UK fall for first time in eight years

Passengers using the nation’s rail networks has fallen for the first time in eight years, new figures show.

Statistics from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) say that passenger journeys in 2017-18 fell by 1.4% to 1.7bn compared to the previous year, with South Western Railway journey numbers suffering the heaviest decline.

Season ticket sales have also taken a nose-dive, with almost one in ten less season tickets being bought compared to the previous year— fuelling claims that seasonal rail passengers have little faith in TOC’s ability to provide consistent, high-quality services.

Yesterday the Transport for North (TfN) said there were “still too many” delays and cancellations of timetables in the north west after a tumultuous bedding in of new national timetable schemes across the country on 20 May.

Earlier this month transport secretary Chris Grayling said an inquiry will be launched into the chaotic timetable that was marred by cancellations, delays, and general confusion between TOCs and rail passengers.

London and the South East region also suffered a severe decline in passengers, with a record fall of 2.1% of users who make up more than two-thirds of all journeys.

Despite dwindling numbers passengers and plummeting season ticket holders, operator revenues, once again, continued to grow. Fares rose by 2.3% in 2017 and another 3.4%-- the highest in five years— in January this year. This means industry revenue grew by 2.3% this year.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) suffered a second consecutive year where numbers fell— industrial disputes, staffing issues, and planned cancellations contributed to a fall of around 2 million in 2017-18, the ORR said.

South Western Railway recorded a 7.9% fall in demand, as much as 18 million fewer passengers compared to last year.

In spite of falling footfall for some TOCs, other providers reported successes in their area. Chiltern Railways, with 28 million passenger journeys each year, saw a surge of 6.4% since 2017-17. ScotRail saw an increase of 3.5 million journeys since last year, its highest growth rate since 2014-15.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “there are over 1.7 billion rail journeys made every year and despite some slowing down, this growth isn’t expected to hit the brakes in the long term. While technology may mean fewer people are travelling into work every day, anyone taking the train into our major cities will know that investment to run more trains is essential.

“To meet the increased demand for rail over the coming decades, rail companies are working together to deliver record investment in rail to improve for customers, communities and the economy, including introducing 6,400 extra services a week by 2021.”

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Image credit: funky-data, iStock


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