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Passenger numbers increasing, but rate has slowed

Passenger numbers and revenue on the UK railways continue to grow, but the rate has slowed compared to previous years, new figures from the ORR show.

In the first quarter of 2016-17, there were 418.5 million passenger journeys on UK railways, 1.6% more than the same point last year.

Passengers travelled 16.2 billion km, marking a 2.2% increase, and passenger revenue was £2.4bn, a 3.5% increase.

However, these figures represent a slower increase than the growth seen between the first quarter of 2014-15 and 2015-16. In that period, passenger journeys grew by 4.7%, passenger kilometres increased by 3.3%, and passenger revenue increased by 6.6%.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “While the rate of growth in revenue and journeys has slowed, the uncertain economic outlook in no way reduces the need for continued investment to build the bigger, better, modern railway that Britain needs.

“Rail has been a tremendous success with thousands more services and passenger numbers having doubled in the last 20 years but we know that we have to do better for our passengers, freight customers and taxpayers.”

In 2015-16 as a whole, there were 1.69 billion passenger journeys and £9.3bn in passenger revenue on the railways, the highest level since records began.

Last week, figures from the ORR showed that freight activity has declined considerably this quarter, which it attributed to difficulties facing key sectors such as coal.

Plummer said it was “vital” to “invest and plan long-term” for increasing demand on Britain’s rail network.

The ORR figures also showed that Northern was the company with the biggest increase in passenger numbers, by 9.4%. On 1 April 2016, the new Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises commenced operation with services between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North/Barrow-in-Furness and between Oxenholme and Windermere transferring from TPE to Northern. Consequently the highest quarter on quarter increase in passenger journeys this quarter was recorded by Northern, increasing by 9.4% whilst journeys on TPE registered a decrease of 10.2%. This effect is replicated in passenger kilometres and passenger train kilometres.

Three of the TOCs in the London and south east sector – South West, London Overground and Abellio Greater Anglia – experienced a decrease.

Abellio Greater Anglia’s passenger numbers declined by 33.9% after it transferred services to TfL Rail.

South West and London Overground had smaller decreases of 1.3% and 3.4%, which the ORR said could be linked to a 0.8% drop in season tickets, one of the biggest drivers of passenger numbers in the region.

(Image c. Johnny Green from PA Images)

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Lutz   06/10/2016 at 13:29

Not unexpected. I've not looked at the numbers yet, but as highlighted by the article, there will be variations by route. The SWML has been saturated fro a number of years, though there have been capacity increases on some routes. Adverse affects such as SOHO will also be having an impact, though investment in CR2 should remove specific constraints and see a return to growth. However the main problem is that the projects that have been made are a little simplistic - they generally assume linear growth and do not adequately take into account factors such as tapering in demand, and upper limits on demand between specific markets.

Noam   07/10/2016 at 12:32

So growth is slowing, but it's still growth. The investment to increase capacity to accommodate this growth is still lagging twenty years behind. We need more trains and more railways, and we need them now!

Lutz   07/10/2016 at 18:19

@Noam Perhaps better allocation of funds is called for so that we do not waste money on services that neither pay for themselves, and where money has been spent in an attempt to attract voters, but rather spend it in and around London and the South East where the demands are greatest. We also probably need to cut concessionary travel - e.g. to Students on InterCity services, raise the pensioner fresh-hold, and yield-manage peak periods.

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