Crowds at Nottingham by Phil Marsh

Rail usage records keep tumbling as over a million new rail journeys a week are made

Published: 19th June 2015

UK Rail – the most successful in Europe?

The rail success story continues according to official statistics compiled by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show. Passenger journeys reached a record high of 1.654 billion in the 2014-2015 financial year.

This number is the largest recorded since consistently being monitored in 2002-3 and was an increase of 4.2% or 67.3 million over the previous year. But the amazing statistic is that since this monitoring began, the increase is just below 70% in 2002-3 when a ‘mere’ 975.5 million journeys were made.

The ORR publishes ‘Rail Usage Statistics’ each quarter and annually and these impartial figures show the number of journeys made and the distance travelled on all services, franchised and open access. The monitoring is used for forward planning in investment and performance pinchpoints. The last quarter’s figures covering the first three months in 2015 show an increase of 3.7% or 15 million journeys over the same period in 2014.

There were 422.7 million franchised passenger of which 197.9 million were made by commuters using season tickets representing the highest number of such journeys since monitoring began in 2002.

The London and South East sector generated 297.4 million franchised journeys, a 2.8% or 8 million rise the precious three months. The long distance sector saw 33 million trips made an increase of 5.8% or 1.8 million journeys. But it was the ‘Regional’ sector that saw the biggest franchise increase to 92.3 million journeys or up by 6.1% or 5.3 million trips. Non franchised services rose by 9% to 0.53 million passenger journeys or by 40,000.

How far did passengers travel and how much did they pay?

The distance timetabled passenger trains travelled in 2014-5 in the UK totalled 529.9 million kilometres an increase of 1% on the previous year. The reality is that this figure was not reached as a tiny percentage of trains were either cancelled or failed to make the whole journey.

Passengers travelled a staggering 62.9 billion kilometres, the highest recorded since 2002 representing an increase of 4.5% on the previous year and 57% when measured against 2002/3. This is despite for a decade rail fares being increased by above the rate of inflation attracting a political battle for the last two years. Passengers paid a whopping £8.9 billion in fares with £63million of this generated by non-franchised operators. Passenger revenue increased by over 7% in 2014-5 over the previous year.

The average journey reduced by two kms to 37.7kms and in the Southeast, 70% of journeys were made covering 48% of the total distance travelled. The average fare was £5.26 a trip up by 7p a ride over the previous year.

Who operated the most passenger timetabled train kilometres (TTKM)?

In the last Quarter, Scotrail 11.5TTKM, Northern Rail 11.1TTKM and First Great Western (10.9TTKM) were the top three while Chiltern operated 2.66 TTKM and London Overground, 2.01TTKM while C2C and Merseyrail both operated just under 1.6TTKM.

How are we coping with the increase?

Some West Coast Main Line Virgin services are seeing coach G being converted from first class to standard class to ease overcrowding on Pendolinos. In London, Transport for London has introduced an extra carriage on many of their services and on what used to see a three carriage train at best, many are now five carriages. Thameslink services are now 12 carriages long as are some Kings Cross outer suburban trains which were eight cars in previous years.

SouthWest Trains has also introduced extra carriages to help cope with demand and plans are being made to lengthen platforms 1 to 4 at Waterloo to help the peak time services. Longer platforms being constructed around the network along with better station facilities to ease congestion being provided such as parking and waiting areas. Liverpool South Parkway, Reading and Northampton are just three examples of this.

Former Class 319 Thameslink trains have been sent to the Northwest and are now running from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester on the newly electrified routes.

And testing has commenced on the East Coast Main Line of the new Hitachi Class 800 trains which will bring more trains in three years’ time.

Tube travel also rockets

In the last eight years, London Underground ridership has increased by 30% with four million journeys a day made. London Overground are introducing new routes and longer trains, five carriage services for example, up from three carriages.

London’s population is nearly 8.5million and rising fast and this combined with radical changes in ticketing such as the Oyster Card system have helped fuel the increase. And the 24 hour a day weekend tube service on some lines starts in September following track and signalling upgrades plus the introduction of new trains.

More off-peak trains and cheaper book-ahead fares have also helped attract more passengers who avoid what used to be called the rush hour. This is now up to three hours every morning and evening and this is why off-peak fares’ restrictions are often imposed.

And compared to Europe…

These UK statistics show that we are third in the European table so far as passenger kilometres travelled. France and Germany had 90.5 billion and 89.5 billion respectively but since 2008, the UK has seen a 17.% growth, second only to Austria by 1% with a smaller network but in in absolute numbers, the UK has seen the biggest increase in passenger kilometres since 2008.

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