Rail passenger journeys see dramatic fall towards the end of March

4 June 2020

Rail passenger journeys in Great Britain saw a dramatic fall towards the end of the quarter ending in March of this year following the impact of the coronavirus, as people heeded government advice against all unnecessary travel.

Nationally, this meant journeys ended up falling by 51 million (11.4%) in 2019-20 Q4 compared with 2018-19 Q4, resulting in the largest fall for any quarter since the time series began in 1994/95.

The stats also show:

  • The Long Distance sector had the largest decline in journeys this quarter at 16.3%.
  • The London and South East sector (down 11.9%) and Regional sector (down 7.9%) recorded smaller declines in journeys.
  • Franchised passenger journeys using season tickets fell by 16.7 million (9.8%) in 2019-20 Q4 compare with 2018-19 Q4. This is likely to underestimate the real change in usage as it will include journeys not made on some tickets purchased prior to the coronavirus. Journeys using ordinary tickets decreased by 33.7 million (12.4%).

The full statistical release can be found here: https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/statistics/usage/passenger-rail-usage/

Graham Richards, Director, Railway Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said: "The first quarter stats for this financial year for rail passenger usage (April – June,) will obviously show further decline in numbers but these stats show the start of the unprecedented fall in passenger numbers. This can be attributed almost entirely to the measures taken by passengers in the middle of March as they heeded government advice to stay at home and only travel if it was essential.

"For people starting to use the rail network, as measures are eased, we're working with the industry to provide health and safety advice and guidance, and continue to monitor the reality on the ground to ensure people have the confidence that they can travel safely."