Demand for rail travel outpaces growth in economy and employment

24 October 2014  •  Author: Rail Delivery Group

Growth in rail travel has outpaced the strengthening economy and rising employment levels over the last six months, according to new figures.

Latest data from the rail industry show that in the six months to September, 713m passenger journeys were made, a 3.67% increase on the same period last year – or over 140,000 more journeys a day. Figures from the ONS show that the economy is currently growing at 3.2% annually as measured by GDP, while employment is increasing by 2%.

The growth in rail travel between April and September follows the 1.6billion rail journeys that were made in 2013/14, confirming the transformation of the railway which after decades of decline in the second half of the 20th century is now experiencing levels of demand last seen following demobilisation after WW1.

The figures also show that:

  • Journeys being taken in the commuter-heavy London and South East area rose by 3.72%, aided by the growth in employment;
  • Increased business travel, an indicator of the strengthening economy, has contributed to a 3.03% rise in long distance journeys;
  • Growth of 3.74% in regional journeys suggests that the recovery is spreading beyond the South East.

Discounting is also encouraging train travel. Journeys made on Advance tickets showed the strongest growth of all ticket types, with a year on year rise of 9.34% – over the six month period, 28 million journeys were made. Research by KPMG found that discounted fares now account for almost half of passenger revenue, up from 36% 10 years ago.

The rail industry is responding to the growth in passengers by undertaking one of the largest investment programmes in the history of the railway. Between now and 2019, Network Rail is spending an average £27m a day on improving all parts of rail’s infrastructure to improve services and create more capacity to carry extra passengers. By 2018, 2,000 new carriages will be in service on the network with almost a third more peak time seats into major cities, and 20% more in and out of London planned by the end of the decade.

Other European countries have invested heavily in their railways but none is experiencing the kind of growth seen here. Passenger numbers grew 62% in the UK between 1997-98 and 2010-11, compared to 33% in France, 16% in Germany and 6% in the Netherlands.

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators and Network Rail, said:

“Phenomenal growth in rail journeys is helping operators to pay £2billion a year back to government, which in turn is enabling investment by Network Rail in further improving Europe’s safest and fastest growing railway.

“By aiming to run more and better services safely, make the railway simpler to use and get more for every pound invested, the industry will not rest in our goal to make Europe’s best railway even better.”

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