A surge in the sale of cut price train tickets combined with rocketing petrol prices are helping to drive up demand for rail to historic levels, according to new figures published.
Analysis by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) shows that passenger numbers grew by 6% in the last 12 months. Journeys on the rail network reached over 1.4billion – a new high for a peacetime year since the 1920s.
Strong growth in sales of reduced-price tickets in particular suggests that people are increasingly turning to rail by opting for affordable tickets that compare well with the cost of other forms of transport.
Figures from ATOC show that over the last 12 months, sales of reduced-price tickets rose by 9%. This includes:
- Advance tickets rose by 16%
- Journeys on Railcards rose by 11%. More than 100 million journeys a year are now made with a Railcard, with holders saving on average £138 a year. Railcards give a third of the price off most tickets for young people, families and the over 60s.
- Off-Peak fares grew by nearly 7% and Super Off-Peak fares (generally limited to travel at the quietest times) increased by 12%.
ATOC opinion polling shows that the record price of petrol is also prompting hundreds of thousands of people to switch from road to rail.
Research carried out by Ipsos MORI for ATOC shows that more than a quarter of rail users have switched from car to train for at least one journey over the last few months. Around a third of those to switch said that they had done so because of the price of petrol.
The average price of petrol has been steadily increasing in recent months and reached a new record at the start of March, at 137.4p a litre. The average cost per mile when driving is now 38p, almost double the 20p per mile for rail travel.
Michael Roberts, ATOC Chief Executive, said: “People are voting with their feet and wallets by choosing to travel by train in growing numbers. Operators have attracted people to the railways by providing a range of affordable tickets and cut price deals.
“The rising cost of motoring also means that rather than automatically reaching for the car keys, more and more people are heading to the train station to get from A to B.
“The latest figures show the growing popularity of booking ahead to cash in on cheap advance tickets. But they also show that the walk-up railway continues to offer value to passengers, with train companies selling a record 365million off-peak tickets over the last year. From students to pensioners, families to businesspeople, the railways are keeping the country moving in tough times.”