Rail travel continues to recover from the pandemic, but season ticket sales are still far below their pre-pandemic levels, according to figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

Just under a billion rail journeys were made between April 2021 and March 2022, compared to just 388 million in the previous year, at the height of the lockdown. However, it’s still just 57% of the number of journeys made on the railways before the pandemic.

(c) ORR

Income from passenger revenue also increased in the last year to £5.9 billion – nearly three times the £2 billion generated during the pandemic but is still little more than half (54%) of the £11 billion generated pre-pandemic.

A large portion of the drop in revenue can be put down to the decline in season ticket sales, which were also heavily concentrated in the southeast of England. Revenues from season ticket sales are still at just a quarter of the £2.2 billion from before the pandemic – leaving a £1.6 billion hole in the rail operators revenues.

ORR also found that long-distance journeys recorded the highest relative usage compared to pre-pandemic figures.

London North Eastern Railway saw a return of 83.3% of passengers compared to usage pre-pandemic – the most of any operator.

Journeys made in the regions made up 58.3% of relative usage compared to pre-pandemic, and 55.9% of journeys were made in London and the South East compared to pre-pandemic.

Govia Thameslink Railway had the most rail usage in 2021-22 with 179.0 million journeys made, but this was 51.3% of relative usage compared to two years ago. Heathrow Express (30.6%) recorded the lowest relative usage this year.

The ORR’s tables are here.


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  1. ChrisC says:

    Not surprised by the Heathrow Express whose passengers are almost all people using Heathrow for flights and we all know how few air passengers there have been until relativly recently.

  2. Kai Chung. says:

    Unnecessary Working from home should be taxed accordingly with a suitable Sin Tax, at say a Flat Rate per month or part thereof in order to discourage it on a polluter pays principle.

  3. Toby Chopra says:

    What in earth is “unnecessary working from home”? What the pandemic revealed was that we were engaging in large amounts of “unnecessary working from the office” which most enlightened employers are now not requiring. People come in when they need to and use the saved commuting time for rest, family, hobbies (or, in some cases, more work for the employer). Everyone’s a winner.

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