Rail commuting two-thirds down on pre-Covid levels – with ‘dire impact’ on cities

Rail commuting two-thirds down on pre-Covid levels – with ‘dire impact’ on cities
‘It is now vital that people change how they get around’ – Andrew Carter, 首席执行官, Centre for Cities

Commuting by rail, which collapsed as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, is still two-thirds down on the level in early 2020.

New research from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operators and Network Rail, shows that commuting by train is now at 33 per cent of pre-pandemic levels – while car journeys have reverted to pre-pandemic levels.

全面的, rail passenger numbers are at 60 per cent of 2019 figures.

The organisation says it “could take years to return to numbers seen in 2019”.

The financial impact is deeply concerning senior rail figures: commuters’ season tickets provided the bedrock of the £10bn in fares collected annually until 2020.

此外, the RDG says the dramatic cut in numbers is having a “dire impact” on city centres.

Research by WPI Economics for the group shows the extent to which city centre coffee shops, pubs and retailers could also suffer if rail commuting fails to recover.

Train commuters travelling to city centres typically spend £12 on food and drink, £8 on shopping and £6 on entertainment and culture on each journey.

“Pre-pandemic, this totalled a £30 billion a year boost for local businesses from train commuters,” says the RDG.

Andy Bagnall, its director general, 说: “For many former Monday-to-Friday commuters, the future is undoubtedly going to be a mix of home and office working.

“But the extent to which people return to the workplace and whether or not they take the train to get there is going to be crucial.

“When people take the train it’s more than a journeyit will impact the future of thousands of small businesses, local air quality and the government’s net zero ambitions.”

Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, 说: “Congestion from cars causes both economic and health problems.

“It is now vital that people change how they get around. Centre for Cities has previously called on city leaders to introduce congestion charging and clean air zones to encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, they should push ahead with this policy.”

Non-commuter rail trail, 然而, is recovering faster: LNER has revealed that leisure passenger numbers on the East Coast main line now exceed pre-pandemic levels.

The operator’s managing director, David Horne, 说: “There has been a great deal of pent up demand as people want to make trips to see friends, or loved ones or to enjoy a break or day trip.”

But business-related travel is still below 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. LNER has relatively few conventional commuters on its network, but previously carried a large number of occasional business travellers – particularly to and from London.


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