Posted 19th February 2024 | 1 Comment

New research says passenger figures could almost double by 2050

The number of rail journeys made in Britain could almost double in the next 25 years, according to the most optimistic of possible outcomes suggested by consultants Steer in a report for the Railway Industry Association.

RIA has often protested about the lack of long-term railway planning, and in particular the government’s failure to update the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline document for several years, although it is supposed to be an annual publication.

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan has already called for ‘urgent action’ to ‘provide some stability to the rail supply chain, to avoid suppliers having to lay off staff or shift work overseas’. The crisis at Alstom in Derby is also continuing, with warnings that the works could close because it has no new orders for rolling stock.

Steer’s new research sets out several possible developments between now and 2050, with passenger numbers increasing by least 37 per cent and possibly by 97 per cent.

Various factors it attempts to take into account include the economy, rises in population, competition with other modes, changes to fares and timetables and other policies which affect rail, such as reducing carbon emissions with the aim of achieving Net Zero.

Darren Caplan said: ‘This landmark report sets out a range of scenarios for future rail passenger growth, yet under all of them passenger numbers grow, which will have clear impacts on capacity in the future.

‘Under the lowest growth scenario, even if the Government does nothing and lets the industry drift along as it is, passenger numbers still grow by a third in the 25 years to 2050.

‘Alternatively, if a future Government adopts a bold and ambitious strategy passenger numbers could double by 2050, dramatically increasing revenues. Freight is also likely to grow in this time, with the Government itself setting a 75 per cent growth target over the next 25 years.

‘So there is clearly a huge opportunity to expand rail travel, benefiting the economy and its connectivity, as well as bringing social and decarbonisation benefits. To achieve this, we need to see rail reform and a long-term rail strategy as soon as possible, including a plan for increased north-south capacity, which all rail experts agree will not be delivered under current plans.’

Reader Comments:

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  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    The industry's challenge is to escape from the current short termism where decision making is being crippled by the financial damage inflicted by the pandemic. As shown by the Prime Minister's cancellation of HS2 phase 2, taken without industry input, decisions are being inflicted on the industry without a clear long term strategic.

    The lack of the Rail Enhancement Pipeline illustrates the lack of strategic ambition but more importantly undermines the suppliers which has real term damage on economic activity & employment. Just look at the damage to rolling stock builders as the production lines at Derby close down.