UK rail passenger numbers exceed pre-pandemic levels

Posted: 16 March 2023 | | No comments yet

With passenger levels having reached 103% of pre-COVID levels, the UK rail industry marks a successful post-pandemic recovery, with the RIA urging continued government investment in rail infrastructure.

UK rail passenger numbers exceed pre-pandemic levels

Credit: Railway Industry Association

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it has published figures showing that national rail passenger numbers have reached over 100% of pre-COVID levels for the first time since March 2020.

Since 10 February 2023, passenger numbers on the national network have hit or exceeded 100% of pre-pandemic levels five days in a row, and on 22 February 2023 103% had been recorded. This means that passenger numbers have doubled in just over a year, with the DfT data showing that since the start of 2023 rail customers have been returning not just on weekends and the middle days of the working week, but also on Mondays and Fridays.

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Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “These are amazing figures, and ones that everyone in rail should take pride in. To reach 103% of pre-COVID passenger levels barely a year on from pandemic rules being relaxed is an amazing achievement, and shows that many people are returning to their previous routines of working, visiting friends and family and enjoying leisure and hospitality. The remote working revolution has perhaps been over-reported too, with ‘hybrid-workers’ increasingly spending more time in the workplace.

“We should also bear in mind that today’s figures are being compared to March 2020, the end of the second highest period of passengers in UK rail history. And that in the last year we have had significant industrial action and some poor service levels on some parts of the network. Imagine how much higher these passenger figures would be were this not the case.

“We are also hearing that passenger revenues are also hitting 90%, a post-COVID high. Given all this, the Railway Industry Association and our members again urge the UK government – especially during Spring Budget week – not to take its foot off the pedal of rail investment. The UK will clearly need more rail capacity both now and in the future, as the numbers using rail go up.”