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Rail passenger boom down to economic and housing restructuring of last 20 years

New research has found that major changes to the UK’s economic structure and housing locations have driven the growth in rail passenger numbers since 1995.

A report, ‘Wider factors affecting the long-term growth in rail travel,’ put together by the Independent Transport Commission (ITC), found that major changes over the last 23 years in housing and the job market have increased the public’s inclination to use rail services.

Since 1995, the population has grown by 15%, whereas the number of rail users has doubled. And between 1996-2014, 79% more people made rail trips per week.

The think tank pointed to a move from manufacturing jobs to office-based employment in sectors such as finance, insurance, ICT, professional and science, all of which are predominantly located in urban areas – where housing growth has been the strongest.

The report states that an 80% rise in jobs in ICT has led to an extra 90,000 rail commuters, whilst an 88% rise in technical and scientific jobs has led to an extra 190,000 rail commuters. Additionally, job growth and rail use growth were strongest in London and the south east, and a 41% growth in rail commuters has arisen from a 27% employment boost across England and Wales.

The think tank also found major differences in regional use of rail: where in London, 35% of commuters use rail (including Tube, DLR and trams), this figure is only 2% in the East Midlands, south west and Wales.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair of Network Rail and patron of the ITC, commented: “I very much welcome this ground-breaking new research study by the ITC which demonstrates how significant changes to the economy and housing location have contributed towards rail passenger growth in Britain.

“The ITC's report illustrates the importance of joined-up policy making if we are to continue to enjoy the renaissance in rail usage that has been such a feature of the last two decades.” 

Dr Matthew Niblett, director of the think tank, said: “A shift towards a knowledge-based economy has clearly shaped the contemporary railway passenger boom.

“While rail investment has accelerated since privatisation, it is clear that the growth in passenger numbers is also down to factors beyond the rail industry's control. With Brexit on the horizon, an industrial strategy developing and a housing shortage in the south east and London continuing, it’s important that economic and planning challenges are considered alongside transport policy, as is the case with the East West Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects.”

Top image: william87


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