<p>Missing persons: sales of Advance tickets, popular with inter-city travellers, fell by 79%</p>

Missing persons: sales of Advance tickets, popular with inter-city travellers, fell by 79%

Rail passenger numbers and fare revenue collapse by four-fifths

Only train operators in and around London saw more than 30 per cent of previous journeys

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 03 June 2021 12:04

Rail journeys have fallen to their lowest in a century-and-a-half, the Office of Rail and Road has revealed.

Only 388 million journeys were made between April 2020 and March 2021, compared with 1.7 billion made in 2019-20 – a fall of 78 per cent in passenger numbers.

The slump in fare revenue was even worse, down 82 per cent to £1.9bn, compared with £10.4 billion in 2019-20.

Taxpayers are filling the gap with a subsidy currently running at £1m per hour.

The three months between April and June 2020 saw only 35 million journeys. In the summer months of July, August and September, the number rose to 133 million, and increased to 139 million in the last three months of 2020. But with another lockdown imposed from early January, passenger journeys collapsed again to 80 million.

With unprecedented capping of passenger numbers on many inter-city services, and the withdrawal of trains due to cracks in express rolling stock, there are scant signs of recovery – with fewer than half the number of travellers in 2019.

No train operators managed as much as one-third of previous levels in the year to March 2021. The best performances were all on commuter lines in and around London: TfL Rail (32.5 per cent), London Overground (31.8 per cent) and c2c (31.7 per cent).

Merseyrail, which runs local services in the Liverpool area, saw 29.5 per cent of passenger, with Caledonian Sleeper – the overnight service between Scotland and London – recording one in four of previous passenger numbers.

But journeys on ScotRail were just 15 per cent of previous levels. The worst performance was from Heathrow Express, which saw 95 per cent of its passengers disappear; travellers using the UK’s busiest airport have fallen by over 90 per cent in recent months.

One specific figure will alarm the rail industry: season ticket sales were just 16 per cent of previous levels. Traditionally revenue from five-day-a-week commuters has underpinned the entire operation.

Sales of Advance tickets, popular with inter-city travellers, fell by 79 per cent.

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