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Passenger growth continues to add pressure to a congested railway

New figures from the Office of Rail Regulation show that passenger numbers on franchised rail services rose by 4.4% in the July-September period, compared to the same period last year.

The ORR said it was the highest number of journeys recorded in a quarter since the present series of data collection began in 2002-03.

The statistics show that rail passenger growth has defied the economic downturn, with an increase of 17% since 2008 when it began.

While growth in journeys will be viewed by many as a good thing it adds further stress to an ageing and congested network, with the pressure felt especially on key routes such as the West Coast Main Line.

According to the ORR 407.7 million passenger journeys took place last quarter, with 284.1 million journeys recorded in the franchised London and South East sector (up 4.3% since last year), 33.6 million journeys in the franchised long distance sector (up 3.5%) and 90 million journeys in the franchised regional sector (up 5.5%). There were also 540,000 journeys made on open access passenger services, an increase of 16%.

In 2013-14 there were 62 billion passenger km in the UK rail industry, the third highest in the European Union behind France and Germany. Since 2008, only Austria has experienced faster growth in passenger km than the UK.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing operators and Network Rail, said: "Phenomenal growth in rail journeys is helping operators to pay £2bn a year back to government, which in turn is enabling investment by Network Rail in further improving Europe’s safest and fastest growing railway.

"By aiming to run more and better services safely, make the railway simpler to use and get more for every pound invested, the industry will not rest in our goal to make Europe's best railway even better."

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Nonsuchmike   12/12/2014 at 16:01

Yea, hath the ORR said? There is a notion that in reality rail growth of passengers has only crept up by about 1.0 - 1.5% per year over the last 15 years, and has declined in some areas (Middlesbrough Airport station, anybody?) whilst being fairly static in others. Blasphemy, I hear you say? Well, scarcely. My argument goes something like this: over the past fifteen years, particularly in the South East of England and around most centres of population throughout the UK there has been a tightening of the security at stations involving entry and exit of passengers. Not before time you might nod sagely to yourself and think. Exactly. Youngsters in the 20th/21st century may have a higher level of personal technical skills and personal hygiene than their parents, but regularly paying for train fares was never their strong suit. With these improvements to security, the younger element has been obliged to pay the fare, buy and use an Oyster, Travel Card or whatever, whereas previously they might have tried to bunk off the train when the Inspector appeared and continue the journey on a later train. The fines for dodging are so financially draining, and the chances of getting caught so much higher, that the simple option is to buy a valid ticket. This change in "modus transportandi" had been reflected in so called higher passenger numbers year on year, whereas the numbers have hardly changed at all, but the number of those passengers actually paying has increased. Must point out that I have never travelled without paying, although one of my sons was caught about 13 years ago when a teenager. He is now a model citizen.

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