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UK rail passenger numbers achieve 90-93% of pre-pandemic levels

As the UK has emerged from pandemic restrictions, the rail sector has been trying to entice passengers to return to rail travel for their daily commutes and leisure travel. Customer numbers have been on the rise across the nation but are still below the pre-pandemic heights, shown from recent figures published from the Department for Transport (DfT).

The DfT published a report on Wednesday 27th July showing that passengers have returned to utilise rail travel in numbers that are closing in on pre-pandemic levels. According to these recent figures, between the 6th-17th July, passenger travel achieved 90-93% of pre-Covid levels every single day of the week across the national rail network. These healthy findings mirror previous figures collated between the 10th -20th June, also achieving 90-93%, showing that whilst there are still ways to go in stabilising the network, the appetite for rail travel is returning as primary public transport.

London’s tube network has also seen success in finding a semblance of pre-pandemic stability, with numbers achieving weekday heights of 79% passenger usage, recorded on Thursday 21st July. Weekend and Bank Holidays have seen a major spike however, with regular recordings of 85-118% have been achieved since May this year.

Commenting on the figures, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, said:

“Everyone working in rail should welcome the fact that within just a few months of Covid restrictions beginning to be lifted, we are regularly getting to around 93% of pre-Covid passenger levels on the national rail network. What’s more, these figures are all the more impressive given they are based on a comparison with 2019-20 levels, which were the second highest on record.

“Were it not for the current industrial action and exceptional incidents like the recent heatwave, the return to rail would be even more impressive and consistent. Whilst some of the return can be attributed to higher leisure travel – which is great news in itself – it is clear that some of the increase is also down to more commuters travelling outside traditional peak work travel slots too.

"All of us in the railway industry now need to accept that many of the dire predictions of rail's demises are wide of the mark and take a ‘can-do’ approach to ensuring the future for rail is positive. Accordingly, we urge policymakers and the Treasury not to base 30-year plans and forecasts for rail on the last two abnormal years, but to plan for much-needed increased capacity in the future, as more and more passengers return to the rail network in the months and years to come.”

The steady return of passenger numbers through the UK rail network is imperative to the UK’s economic stability as it maintains work connections for commuters, whilst also contributing massively towards the Governments ambitions to achieve carbon net-zero through environmentally friendly travel.

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