In the four years since the Williams Rail Review was initiated, the railway, its markets and the national economy within which it operates have all changed radically. On the economic front, that change continues – for the worse.
Passenger ridership recovery is patchy across the operating companies. On the East Coast main line, the revival of leisure travel has seen passenger journeys on LNER and open access operators Grand Central and Hull Trains restored to pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest figures for April to June released by the Office of Rail and Road (p14). In contrast, the collapse of the commuter market sees South Western Railway and Southeastern ridership still at only two-thirds of its former peak. Meanwhile, as reported elsewhere in this issue, the Bill containing the powers for the creation of Great British Railways has lost its slot in the new Government’s programme of legislation (p8). When, or if, it might be revived remains unclear. But already the phrase‘dead in the water’is being heard in some quarters.