Season ticket market share drops below 40% for first time


Overall, patronage increased 0.8% during the year


Patronage growth on Britain’s railways in 2016/17 fell to its lowest level since the recession seven years ago, figures released by the Office of Rail and Road show.

Overall, patronage increased 0.8% during the year. On both the regional and long distance networks numbers continued to rise, by nearly 4% in both cases, but in London and the south east numbers fell 0.5%, including in each of the last three quarters of the year.

Although the overall figures were affected by industrial action at GTR, the fall continued in the final quarter when strikes had a minimal impact, with south east passenger numbers dropping nearly 2%.

The main companies to be affected were those operators south of the River Thames. During the year, passenger numbers fell 1.9% at GTR and 3.2% at South West Trains, although Stagecoach said the decline mainly related to the allocation of Travelcard patronage.

At other large franchises growth was weak, with Great Western recording a 1% rise in numbers and Southeastern a rise of 0.4%.

The smaller operators fared better with Chiltern increasing patronage by 7.9%, mainly due to its new Oxford service. At c2c numbers rose 7%.

In the long distance sector, Virgin Trains recorded the highest increase with a 5.6% rise on the west coast. The weakest growth was at Virgin Trains East Coast where patronage grew 2.8% and at CrossCountry where numbers rose 2.6%.

The weakening patronage trends means revenue growth was at its lowest level for 16 years with a rise of 2.5% during 2016/17.

The ORR also said that during the year there had been changes in the types of tickets bought. Season ticket journeys fell by 2.9% and their market share dipped under 40% for the first time. The regulator added that “attractive promotions, competitive prices on advance, off-peak and super off-peak tickets have fuelled the growth in the ordinary ticket travels”.

Advance  purchase ticket journeys increased by 9.7% and their market share rose to 3.9%.


This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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