Lockdown impact on rail travel revealed as passengers at lowest level since mid-19th century

Passenger numbers for rail companies operating in Shropshire fell by more than 90 per cent during the first few months of lockdown, according to new figures.

Rail journeys saw huge drops across the country due to lockdown
Rail journeys saw huge drops across the country due to lockdown

The extent of the impact the first full national lockdown had on public transport is revealed in a report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

It shows massive declines in people travelling on trains across the country, with West Midlands Trains, and Transport for Wales seeing 94 and 95 per cent drops in passenger numbers against the same period the previous year.

In the first quarter of this financial year – from April to June, during the first lockdown – there were 368,634 journeys on Transport for Wales trains, compared to 8.5 million the year before.

West Midlands trains saw just over 1 million journeys in the first quarter of this year, way down on the 19.3 million over the same period last year.

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A drop in passenger numbers is not a surprise given government advice during the lockdown not to use public transport unless it was essential, but the figures show the extent of the financial loss facing those running the railways.

The ORR said passenger numbers fell to 35 million nationally – a decline of more than 400 million on the year before.

Graham Richards, director of railway planning and performance at the ORR, said the fall would have had a huge impact on the amount of money taken by rail firms.


He said: "This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the largest on record to levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and also ticketing revenue.

"These figures include the period of lockdown and reassuringly we’re now seeing passenger numbers slowly increase. ORR has worked closely with the industry, and continues to do so, to ensure the necessary health and safety advice and guidance is in place.

"Rail is one of the safest ways to travel and our inspectors continue to monitor the reality on the ground to ensure people have the confidence that they can travel safely."

The drop in usage represents the lowest quarterly total since the mid-19th century, which had seen the first-steam passenger service introduced in 1830.

Avanti West Coast, which also runs services through the West Midlands, saw more than 600,000 passengers use its services – a drop of more than 93 per cent.

CrossCountry services saw more than 600,000 passengers use its services over the period, down by more than 93 per cent according to the ORR.

Total passenger revenue in Great Britain was £184 million between April and June – around 6.9 per cent of the £2.7 billion recorded the previous year.

The impact of the situation has been seen in Wales where the Welsh Government has effectively nationalised Transport for Wales to safeguard the future of the service.

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