Government measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus are already impacting on demand for public transport – with predictions that passenger volumes could reduce by three-quarters


The coronavirus pandemic could deprive the UK’s passenger transport sector of around £3bn of revenues in the next three months.

Amid government advice to only make essential journeys and to work from home where possible, passenger volumes have fallen sharply and the trend looks set to continue.

On Monday, transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed that rail demand reduced by 18-20% last week, compared to the same week of last year.

On the same day, Transport for London said that passenger numbers were down 19% on the London Underground last week, and 10% down on buses.

And, ahead of the chancellor’s announcement of support for businesses on Tuesday, the Confederation of Passenger Transport said bus and coach use was down by over a fifth.

CPT warned that the decline looks set to reach 75% as people respond to the latest measures to tackle Covid-19

CPT warned that the decline looks set to reach 75% as people respond to the latest measures to tackle Covid-19. This appears to be consistent with experience on the continent, where stronger restrictions are in place. A Dutch trade magazine this week reported that rail use was down 85%.

CPT estimates the drop in patronage will cost at least £50m a week – a figure that would exceed £600m if sustained over three months. It has called for a range of actions from the government, including a £1bn support package.

TfL’s current forecasts suggest that it could see a £500m reduction in passenger income.

A 75% reduction in rail travel would cost Britain’s train operators almost £200m a week, rising to £1.9bn if sustained over a three-month period.

There is further coronavirus coverage in the latest issue of Passenger Transport:

  • Shapps – firms could be run by public sector
  • Service reductions as coronavirus spreads
  • Bus operators call for timetable flexibility
  • Inside Track: Coronavirus bites buses

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