Passenger levels continue recovery

The number of passengers on National Rail reached 99 per cent of pre-Covid levels on Friday 18 November according to the latest statistics from the Department for Transport, which also said the usage level remained at 97 per cent over the weekend which followed.

The DfT is set to publish a Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) tomorrow.

Railway Industry Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘It is clear from DfT passenger figures just published that passengers are coming back in force, even during the working week.

‘With 99 per cent recorded on 18 November, we are getting tantalisingly close to the figures recorded in early 2020, a period which marked the second highest year on record.

‘Coupled with the news that passenger revenues are at around 85 per cent plus of pre-Covid levels, and despite the impact of industrial disputes and service issues in some parts of the country, the message to government couldn’t be clearer.

‘Whilst we appreciate the renewed commitments to HS2, “core” Northern Powerhouse Rail and East West Rail, we mustn’t take our foot off the pedal of investment in the existing rail network too, which is close to capacity, will need even more capacity in the years ahead and which is the cleanest form of transport for government to invest in.

‘We urge the Treasury and DfT to take note of the return to rail, and recognise that, even in the current tough economic times, rather than being a cost on the public purse, rail actually supports 710,000 jobs, £43 billion Gross Value Added, and £14 billion in tax revenue. For every pound spent on rail, £2.50 is generated in the wider economy. With it being only a matter of time before 100 per cent of pre-Covid passenger levels are reached, we urge the government to ensure work is properly funded on the existing network in its SoFA for 2024-29, as well as to push on with its welcome support for the major projects.’