ScotRail suffers biggest passenger drop as numbers plummet to lowest for 150 years

ScotRail suffered the greatest fall in passengers during lockdown of any train operator as numbers across Britain fell to their lowest since the mid-19th century, official figures showed today.

ScotRail carried 1m passengers compared to the normal 25m between April and June
ScotRail carried 1m passengers compared to the normal 25m between April and June

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), which regulates the network, said the estimated reduction because of the Covid-19 outbreak was unprecedented.

More than 400 million fewer journeys were made between April and June compared with the same period in 2019.

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ScotRail’s total fell the most, to just 4.3 per cent of last year’s level.

ScotRail has been the hardest hit among British train operators by the fall in passengers

It carried 1.01 million passengers over the three months compared to around 25m normally.

The reduction led to Scottish Government support for ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper to virtually double over the last six months to around £500m.

No Sleeper figures were available.

Other cross-Border operators saw slightly less steep falls, with LNER down to 7.7 per cent, Avanti West Coast 6.6 per cent, TransPennine Express 6.3 per cent and CrossCountry 6.2 per cent.

Across Britain, 35m journeys were made over the period compared to some 435m last year.

Overall passenger revenue between April and June was £184m – 6.9 per cent of the £2.7 billion in the same period last year.

UK Department for Transport figures show demand has since returned to around 38 per cent of normal levels.

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ORR director of railway planning and performance Graham Richards said: "This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the largest on record to levels last seen in the mid-19th century, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and ticketing revenue.

"These figures include the period of lockdown.

"Reassuringly, we're now seeing passenger numbers slowly increase.

"Rail is one of the safest ways to travel

"Our inspectors continue to monitor the reality on the ground to ensure people have the confidence that they can travel safely."

ScotRail said the ORR figures were estimates but agreed it had lost 95 per cent of passengers at the start of lockdown at the end of March when only essential travel was permitted.

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It said they were now around 75 per cent down on last year.

A spokesperson said: “These unprecedented times have had a huge impact on every sector, and the railway is no different.

“People have been listening to and following the government advice, and as a result we’ve seen fewer people choosing to travel.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “Since March, we have worked closely with ScotRail to respond to the unprecedented unfolding impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The Scottish Government has put in place emergency measures agreements with the ScotRail franchise to ensure continued service provision and safeguard rail employees until January 2021.

"However, the significant reduction in passenger journeys over this period is unfortunately not unexpected.

"We will continue to work with ScotRail and monitor the situation as we progress through the various stages of the pandemic.”

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The emergency measures agreements have involved an extra £250m being paid to ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper between March and September.

That was on top of their regular subsidy, of approximately the same amount over that period.

A further estimated £103.5m of emergency support, depending on passenger revenue, will cover the period between September and January.

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