Published: 5th October 2014
The Office of Rail Regulation has announced that passenger numbers continue to rise with the latest survey period, April/May/June 2014, recording an increase of 2% over the previous year. Rail passenger usage has grown across all services for the last decade and this has prompted more trains, station and line re-openings and generally better services all-round.
As roads become more congested, the population grows and car ownership becomes more expensive, rail is experiencing a resurgence helped by upgraded stations, routes and new trains for most of the network. This, combined with a growing economy and continuing hassle at airports, has brought an increase in timetabled train mileage in each of the last ten years alongside a similar increase in passenger journeys, kilometres operated and ticket revenue generated.
Timetabled passenger train kilometres in the reporting period totalled 131.7 million, up by 0.8% over 12 months before. First Transpennine recorded the biggest increase in mileage amongst franchise operators with an extra 11.8% mileage after launching their electric services between Manchester and Scotland in May. Open Access operators Grand Central led their field with a 10.8% increase due to one extra daily round trip between Bradford and kings Cross.
Franchised trains ran 15.3 billion passenger kilometres in April 2014, up by 3.7% in a year with 393.4 million franchised passenger journeys made – the highest number recorded using todays method of counting a decade ago.
Advance purchase tickets grew by 9.0% compared to the same period last year and franchised passenger revenue exceeded £2.1 billion with all rail sectors taking more money than last year.
Heavily used by commuters, the London and South East franchises covered 7.2 billion passenger kilometres but despite being the highest total since these methods of recording statistics was employed, franchised operators had the lowest increase of the three sectors. London and South East franchise revenue increased by 5% exceeding £1.0 billion, another record helped by above inflation fares’ increases.
The long distance franchised operators ran 4.3% more kilometres covering 5.2 billion passenger kilometres. The leisure market’s increase was due to an increase in ordinary advance and off-peak tickets sold reflecting value for money fares offered by operators.
The long distance franchise operators’ revenue went up by 3.6% totalling £724 million, another record amount. The largest increase was recorded by advance purchase tickets, reflecting the increased number of journeys for those products.
Passengers using Regional railway franchises covered 2.9 billion passenger kilometres, up by 4.9%, again a record number perhaps attracted by higher ordinary advance and off- peak ticket sales. Ticket sales brought in £321 million, a 5.6% increase and was the highest revenue generated in any April to May period.
So despite the bad press aired in the print media about overcrowded and late trains, they are more popular than ever, or is it just that other transport modes are worse? But whatever the reason, some comments by the Industry need examining.
The new Govia Thameslink Railway franchise will eventually be the largest in Britain in a few years when other franchises are subsumed into it. It is estimated that it will carry 20% of all UK passengers by 2018, but was Charles Horton of Govia, who operate the new franchise being realistic or antagonistic?
Many of the Thameslink services are standing room only at peak times. This has been recognised for the last 20 years and as a result, the massive Thameslink project is well underway. Longer trains and platforms plus new trains have helped cope with the increase in numbers but the overcrowding remains. The £6billion project will be completed in four years’ time when another new fleet of trains should help commuters with more services and reaching more destinations.
These urban trains have been designed to allow passengers to get on and off quickly to maintain punctuality. The interior design has had to allow for this and so there is a large standing area around the double doors with a consequential reduction of seats on the trains. This seems to have been ignored by the free London evening press which covers the new franchise area including Great Northern, Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink services.
The paper also remained silent on the fact that the new franchise is really a management contract let by The Department for Transport (DfT) run for a set fee with ticket revenue going to the DfT. The contract arrangements are because of the major engineering works which will disrupt services for the next three years.
Once complete, 24 trains an hour will pass on a north-south axis through London linking in with Crossrail services at Farringdon which will become the UK’s busiest station.
So, when all the facts are considered, the rail boss is probably being realistic, nothing less about standing room only!