Passenger journeys fall to pre-1872 levels

The Office of Rail and Road says the number of passenger journeys between April 2020 and March 2021 was the lowest recorded on the rail network since at least before 1872, when records started.

Just 388 million journeys were made in the period – 22% of the 1.739 billion made in the year before. In the final quarter of the year, 80 million journeys were made – down from the 139 million between October and December 2020, and the 133 million made between July and September. However, it was still far higher than the 35 million journeys made in April-June 2020. 

The regulator attributes the fall entirely to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. TfL Rail (35.2%), London Overground (31.8%) and c2c (31.7%) were the only operators which recorded at least 30% of the number of journeys made in 2019/20, with Merseyrail (29.5%) and Caledonian Sleeper (24.9%) making up the remainder of the top five performers in percentage terms.

ScotRail (14.9%) and TfW Rail (15.8%) recorded the lowest percentage of journeys compared to 2019/20 of franchised operators, while Heathrow Express – hit hard by travel restrictions at the airport – recorded the lowest level of usage of all, at 4.7% of journeys made in 2019/20.

‘Other’ tickets such as rover, group and package products which include accommodation or onward travel via other modes were the most bought tickets in 2020/21, accounting for 35.8% of all tickets sold. These were followed by off-peak (26.8%), anytime/peak (25%), advance (20.9%) and season tickets (15.9%).