The Office for Road and Rail has today (Thursday) released figures which show rail passenger journeys in Great Britain "fell to the lowest levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century". Rail union TSSA says the figures are "stark but expected" and says government must encourage safe rail use to combat climate change.
Commenting on the figures, TSSA transport union General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The public have rightly followed government advice and stayed away from our railways during the worst of the pandemic, leaving the network safe and available for our key workers. Low passenger numbers are stark but an inevitable and expected result of efforts to combat the virus over this period.
“Our railways remain one of the safest forms of transport and they will be crucial to our economic recovery. It’s crucial that our industry adapts to the change in travel habits and adopts new approaches to ticketing, such as flexible season tickets.
“The daily commute may have been altered forever, so it’s now more important than ever that people use our railways for leisure activities instead of getting into cars. Electric rail is cleaner and safer for our environment and has many health advantages as well as helping to tackle climate change. It’s vital that government encourages people to use rail travel in safe and responsible ways.”
The ORR states: Nationally, 35 million journeys are estimated to have been made in the first quarter of 2020-21 (April to June 2020). This is a decrease of more than 400 million compared to the same quarter last year.
Current rail use is estimated by the Department for Transport to be at 32% of pre-covid levels: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/transport-use-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic.
In March, lockdown measures closed schools and business and travel was severely restricted. When lockdown was eased, people were still encouraged to work from home. That was starting to reverse as workers were encouraged to get back into workplaces, but in September the Prime Minister again asked for those who are able to to work from home, many of whom would otherwise have been travelling by train.