The Great British Railways Transition Team's (GBRTT) Train Travel Snapshot has revealed that leisure travel continues to be the driving force behind growth in rail revenue. In the three months to June 30, leisure travel accounted for more than 75% of the increase in overall rail revenue. It is believed this is due in part to the increased use of Railcards since the pandemic, with 21% of revenue this quarter coming from Railcard journeys, up from 16% in the same quarter in 2019.
Total revenue, adjusted for inflation, was up 13% (£295 million) on the previous quarter, showing a steady upward climb and a record high since the beginning of the pandemic. This growth is being driven by a combination of factors, including a return to work for some people, and a growing awareness of the environmental benefits of rail travel.
The continued growth in leisure travel could have implications on the rolling stock market in the country. The Railway Industry Association (RIA) produced its annual rolling stock industry paper earlier this year which outlined the need for new rolling stock orders to look at long-term changes to passenger requirements as well as ensuring decarbonisation targets are met.
While leisure travel is the main driver of growth, there are also positive signs for business travel and commuting. Business travel revenue was up 8% in the spring months and commuting revenue was also up 6%, reflecting the trend of people going into the office on more days now.
Despite this quarter's growth, rail is still facing a financial shortfall. GBRTT confirmed it is working with local rail leaders to prioritise investment, as well as trying to make ticketing simpler and better value for money.
Suzanne Donnelly, director of passenger revenue at the Great British Railways Transition Team, said: “Encouraging more people to choose rail when they’re weighing up their travel options will not only help make our railways more financially sustainable, but support Britain’s economic and environmental ambitions.
“We need the collective clout of all parts of the industry working together to drive growth. Local rail leaders know their own contexts best, but by bringing decision-makers across the industry together to prioritise investment, GBRTT is supporting joined-up decision making that works across the whole network.
“There are a few areas where we’re focused on making collective progress. These include service reliability, optimising how capacity is used across the network in light of new travel trends, making ticketing simpler and better value for money, and improving communications and information to customers.”
The data has been backed up recent analysis of passenger rail usage by the Office of Rail and Road which reported continued growth post-covid with £1.4 billion passengers using the rail network this financial year – Up from 1 billion in 2021/22.
Darren Caplan, chief executive for RIA said: ““These hugely encouraging GBRTT numbers are further evidence that passengers are returning to the railway in a big way.
“It’s a reminder that as a country we must not take our foot off the pedal of rail investment, and that we need to think about future demand today by planning capacity for tomorrow. Rail growth, both now and in the decades ahead, can only be achieved by a reformed railway alongside a long-term plan with a visible pipeline for rail suppliers. Ultimately this benefits customers – both rail and freight – as well as the public purse, which gets better value for money as we seek to develop world-class rail infrastructure and rolling stock in the months and years ahead.”
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