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Rail journeys fall to lowest level in 170 years

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Rail journeys in the three months to June 2020 fell to their lowest levels since the mid-nineteenth century, statistics reveal.

Just 35 million rail passenger journeys were made between April and June – just 8% of the 439 million reported in the same period last year.

According to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the “unprecedented fall in usage can be attributed entirely to the measures taken to limit the impact of the coronavirus pandemic”.

It added that the quarter began with Great Britain in a state of ‘lockdown’ with all but essential travel prohibited. Some travel restrictions were eased on 10 May with more workers allowed to travel to their place of work.

However, the quarter ended with the governments of the UK encouraging people to avoid public transport if possible.

Revenue also slumped. Total passenger revenue in Great Britain was £184m in Q1 2020/21, just 6.9% of the £2.7bn a year earlier.

The data revealed that London and the South East recorded 28 million journeys in Q1 2020/21. This equates to 9% of the 303 million journeys in the previous year.

Based on ticket type, the ORR revealed that franchised passenger journeys using ordinary tickets fell to 25 million.

Advance tickets (8.9%), off-peak tickets (8.7%) and anytime tickets (8.3%) recorded similar usage.

An estimated 10 million journeys were made using season tickets, equivalent of 7.2% of the 143 million journeys made using season tickets in the three month period last year.

The ORR added that the 29% share of all journeys in 2020/21 Q1 is the lowest recorded by season tickets for any quarter since the data series began in 1994/95.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Rail travel is the economic lifeblood of our towns and cities. With the majority of company bosses planning to keep some home working beyond the pandemic, train companies are keen to work with government to introduce flexible season tickets that will incentivise more people safely back on to trains.

“Fares reform is a crucial component of wider industry proposals to enable train operators to better respond to the rapidly evolving needs of their local customers.”

Earlier this month, the government confirmed refunds, extensions or discounts on renewal for Railcard holders who couldn’t use their cards during lockdown won’t be offered.

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