Edinburgh rail passengers up 17 per cent

RAIL travel in the Capital is booming despite the recession, new figures reveal.

Edinburgh is one of 14 UK cities to see a double-digit rise in the number of passengers arriving or departing by train in the past five years.

Overall, there has been a 17 per cent jump in journeys into and out of Edinburgh since 2008. More detailed analysis shows a 12 per cent rise in business journeys and a 26 per cent increase in leisure trips.

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City council transport convener Lesley Hinds welcomed the figures as a sign of a changing travel culture.

She said: “Rather than bringing their car right into the city centre, people are going by train. And presumably it will have a knock-on effect with people using taxis and buses while they are here.

“It suggests more tourists are coming to ­Edinburgh by rail and hopefully with both Waverley and Haymarket being upgraded that will encourage even more people,”

Edinburgh was the only Scottish city among the 14, Coventry saw the biggest rise at 30 per cent, Birmingham recorded a 22 per cent rise, Sheffield and Bristol 21 per cent and Manchester 20 per cent. According to the figures, compiled by the Association of Train Operating Companies, there were more than 1.44 billion journeys made by train in the UK last year.

It said that despite the government asking firms to increase the average cost of a season ticket by above the rate of inflation every year, operators attracted custom with off-peak, advance purchase tickets and railcard discounts.

ATOC said after years of decline, rail travel had grown almost every year since the 1990s, making it more popular than at any time since the 1920s.

Michael Roberts, ATOC’s chief executive, said: “When Britain has recorded little or no economic growth, rail has been helping our great cities by connecting people with jobs, services and leisure opportunities.

“The last time train travel was this popular was almost 90 years ago when the network was around twice the size.”

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Paul Tetlaw, of campaign group Transform Scotland, said he was not surprised at the rise in leisure travel. “City breaks in the UK are on the increase and there has been a general improvement in rail services to 

“There has been a notable increase in journeys between Manchester and Edinburgh; East Coast has been heavily promoting its services; and there are new routes, including the Airdrie-Bathgate line and the line to Alloa.”

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We welcome these figures showing more people are making a switch to rail when travelling to and from Edinburgh.”

Why is rail so popular?

Staycation holidays mean more people are travelling within the UK due to the recession.

New rail lines make it easier for more people to commute by train.

Edinburgh property prices mean more people are opting to live in East, West and Midlothian and travel in by rail.

Train operators have increased services to and from cities in England and now offer more punctual services,

Running a car is now the biggest household expense, making train travel more attractive despite rising fares.