Rail travel sees 4.8% growth so far in 2011

The rise in the price of petrol over the first three months of the year was one of the main reasons behind continued strong growth on the railways during the first quarter of 2011, train companies revealed today.

Figures published by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) show that passenger numbers on the railways grew by 4.8% in the first three months of 2011, taking growth over the entire financial year 2010/11 to 6.6%.

The analysis shows that:

  • A total of 316m journeys were made in Q1 2011, compared to 301m over the same period last year.
  • When compared to the first quarter of 2010, journeys in London and the South East grew by 4.7%; long distance journeys by 4.1%; regional journeys by 5.2%.
  • Over the entire financial year 2010/11 a total of 1.34bn journeys were made on the railways.

On average, petrol prices have risen at around twice the rate of rail fares over the last 12 months. Compared with April last year, petrol is up by an average of 13%. This compares with rail fares, which rose by an average of 6.2% in January.

The last few months saw a particular spike in the price of petrol, rising by 11% from mid December to mid April alone.

Research carried out by Ipsos MORI for ATOC shows that 1 in 6 rail users said that they have switched from car to train for at least one journey during February and March this year – around half of these people said that this was because of the price of petrol.

Passenger demand forecasting measures used by the rail industry indicate that a 5% rise in petrol prices can lead to around a 1% rise in journeys on the rail network.

Michael Roberts, ATOC Chief Executive said:

“It’s been a strong quarter on the railways, with more and more people choosing to travel by train, despite tough economic times and tight family budgets for many. Passenger numbers continue to rise to levels not witnessed in peacetime Britain since the 1920s, with well over a billion journeys made every year.

“At a time when high petrol prices are a concern to many households, the fact that more people are choosing to travel by train underlines the vital role that rail has to play in the economy’s continued recovery.

“The rise in petrol prices will have encouraged many people to look for other ways to get from A to B rather than simply reaching for the car keys The job of train companies is to continue providing a range of fares to suit all pockets and improving the quality of rail services on offer to the travelling public.”

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