Still fewer passengers on trains from Suffolk to London

Greater Anglia at Cattawade.

Greater Anglia is still running with fewer passengers than before the pandemic. - Credit: Paul Geater

As the government launched its "Great British Rail Sale" this week offering discounts on rail fares until the end of May, new figures from Greater Anglia show passenger numbers on the mainline to London still have not recovered.

The offers are concentrated on mainline routes to and from the capital and are aimed at attracting passengers back for leisure trips.

But it is commuters who are still staying off the trains as many are continuing to work from home for at least part of the week.

Greater Anglia's figures for the end of March - just before the Easter holidays - show that passenger numbers on rural and cross-country lines like Ipswich to Lowestoft or Cambridge have now returned to pre-pandemic levels.

On InterCity services - Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester to London - 70% to 75% of passengers have returned but on commuter services into London the figure is only about 55-60%

That means overall Greater Anglia's passenger numbers are now about 75% of what they were before the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020.

The rail ticket sale is aimed at getting more passengers on the services where numbers are down - but is aimed at the leisure market where ticket sales have recovered faster since the lockdowns.

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This has even prompted discussions about changing the pattern of services and line closures for engineering because on some routes services are now busier at weekends than they are during the week.

The rail sale was launched this week offering a 50% discount on pre-booked tickets for travel between April 24 and May 27. It applies to all rail operators and is being run by the government's new Great British Railways organisation.

The fall in passenger numbers across the network meant all rail operators were left facing substantial losses and the government had to step in to underwrite the cost of their operations.

That has led to a total reform of the structure of the rail industry with Great British Railways being formed which will eventually decide service levels and maintain the infrastructure while operators like Greater Anglia run services to a specific timetable.