The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has looked at the impact of the pandemic on rail, and issued the results in a report.
The headline is that the industry needed £20.7 billion to keep running. Thanks to historic lows in passenger numbers, however, that meant travellers covered just £2.5 billion. The UK Government contributed £16.9 billon and ”other sources” £1.3 billion.
Fares only contributed £1.8 billion from this passenger figure. That is a drop of £8.6 billion from the year before, and reflects a passenger reduction of 77 per cent.
Accordingly, the government increased its contribution by £10.4 billion to £16.9. This figure was largely due to the use of emergency measures to support passenger train operators.
Industry expenditure went up by £0.8 billion. The ORR says the rail industry ran 20.9 per cent fewer services which meant that variable expenditure, such as fuel, Network Rail charges and others reduced. The pandemic also increased expenditure in some areas such as the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), additional cleaning costs and staff absences.
One interesting figure is how much was spent on infrastructure improvements and rolling stock – a somewhat robust £5.6 billion, 4.9 per cent up from the previous year.
There is a silver lining: in the first quarter of 2021-22 (April to June 2021) 182 million rail passenger journeys were made in Great Britain, more than five times the 35 million journeys made in the same period of 2020-21.
Passenger revenue has also started to go back up, as you might expect: £999 million in the first quarter of 2021-2022, very much outstripping the £184 million made during the same time last year. We do still have some way to go, however, as rail brought in £2.8 billion during the same period two years ago.