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Covid-19 cuts train passenger journeys to lowest level since records began in 1872



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Train passenger journeys have fallen to their lowest levels since records began in 1872 because of coronavirus – and in the year to the end of March Greater Anglia recorded just over a fifth of the journeys that were made in the previous 12 months.

Across Great Britain, 388 million journeys were made in the year from the start of April 2020 to the end of March, which is 22% of the 1,739 million made in 2019-20.

Total passenger revenue in 2020-21 was £1.9 billion compared with £10.4 billion the year before.

Railway Station, Bishop's Stortford. Views of new look station and Goods Yard development progress. .Pic Vikki Lince. (47840080)
Railway Station, Bishop's Stortford. Views of new look station and Goods Yard development progress. .Pic Vikki Lince. (47840080)

Graham Richards, director of planning and performance at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), said: "This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the lowest annual fall since the time series began, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and ticketing revenue.

"Despite this, recent estimates published by the Department for Transport show that rail usage has recovered to around 45% of pre-Covid levels by the end of May 2021.

"ORR continues to work closely to support industry and help passengers back onto the railway safely."

A back-pack vacuum cleaner is helping Greater Anglia keep its trains clean between services (47840050)
A back-pack vacuum cleaner is helping Greater Anglia keep its trains clean between services (47840050)

Some 80 million journeys were made in the final quarter (Q4 January to March) of 2020-21 – down from 139m in the previous quarter (Oct-Dec) and 133m in Q2 (Jul-Sep) – but more than double the 35m in the first quarter (Apr-Jun).

The ORR said this "unprecedented" fall in usage could be attributed entirely to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

Three train companies in and around London recorded the highest levels of 2020-21 usage compared to 2019-20: TfL Rail (32.5%), London Overground (31.8%) and Essex Thameside operator c2c (31.7%) were the only ones to record at least 30% of the journeys made the year before.

Four more London and South East operators – Greater Anglia, South Western Railway, Southeastern (all 22.4%) and Govia Thameslink (21.8%) – recorded just over a fifth of journeys made in 2019-20.

Greater Anglia train (47840046)
Greater Anglia train (47840046)

Greater Anglia – which operates trains for passengers from Bishop's Stortford, Stansted and Sawbridgeworth on the West Anglia line between London Liverpool Street and Cambridge – recorded 21.9 million journeys in October-December 2018-19.

That rose to 22.5m in the corresponding quarter in 2019-20 and tumbled to 6.6m in Q3 of 2020-21, which was up from a low of 1.916m in Q1.

ScotRail (14.9%) and TfW Rail (15.8%) recorded the lowest levels of relative usage. Heathrow Express, which operated throughout the year, recorded the lowest level of usage as a percentage of journeys made in 2019-20, at 4.7%.



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