Passenger numbers recovering - but season ticket sales plummet on trains

GA at Liverpool Street

Greater Anglia trains at Liverpool Street - but they are still carrying fewer commuters than before the pandemic. - Credit: Paul Geater

Greater Anglia saw its passenger numbers increase to just under 59% of pre-pandemic figures last year according to new figures from the government regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The company carried almost 50m passengers during the year - and its performance was slightly better than the national average for the industry. Across all companies the number of passengers was 56.4% of the 2019/20.

Nationally there were 990m rail journeys made in 2021/22 compared with 388m the previous year and 1.74bn in 2019/20. Excluding the worst year of the pandemic, last year's passenger numbers were the lowest since 2002/3.

Greater Anglia's figures put it firmly in the middle of the "league table" of train operators - possibly because it is one of very few companies that operate all types of passenger rail services - Intercity, rural lines, and London commuter trains.

The rail industry nationally generated £5.9bn from ticket sales in 2021/22 - 54% of the £11bn it generated in 2019/20.

However, the season ticket market has still not recovered. The switch to home-working meant income from the long-term tickets was £526million in the year to the end of March.

That was 24% of the £2.2billion generated in 2019/20.

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The figures for last year reflect the whole 12 months - including the weeks at the end of the second long lockdown when travel was restricted and has picked up since then.

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: “We are currently carrying just under 80% of customers, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“Our network has a mix of commuters, leisure passengers and business travellers. We are seeing more customers travelling for leisure purposes, and many commuters are choosing hybrid working between the office and their home.

"Last summer we introduced the flexi season ticket, which has proven popular with commuters.

“Rail is a sustainable way to travel and there are many great value fares which can be booked in advance. We will continue to monitor demand and we look forward to welcoming more people back to the railway to travel on our new trains which are operating on all routes across the network for the majority of our services.”