Passenger numbers remain low on region's trains

Greater Anglia trains and Freightliner locomotives in Ipswich station.

Greater Anglia saw an increase in passenger numbers in the second quarter - but there were still far fewer travellers than in 2019. - Credit: Paul Geater

Rail operator Greater Anglia carried just under a third of their normal passengers between July and September according to new figures from the official watchdog the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

During the three-month period Greater Anglia carried just under 29% of the passengers it had during the same period in 2019. That was a big increase on the three months from April to June when less than 8% of the previous year's passengers were carried - and there were tight restrictions on who could travel.

Greater Anglia's figures fall mid way in the "league table" of rail operators. London Overground and Transport for London trains showed the smallest falls in passenger numbers while those serving commuters to other cities in the midlands and north of England showed the greatest fall.

Across the rail network the fall remained significant with 134m journeys being made this year compared with 449m during the same three months in 2019.

However while passenger numbers have fallen, the number of trains being run is now nearly at last year's level - by the end of September Greater Anglia was running 93% of its pre-pandemic numbers of trains in a bid to ensure those passengers who were travelling could observe social distancing.

The busiest week was the first week in September when cases of Covid were low and people were happy to use trains for leisure trips and local journeys for days out were proving particularly popular. 

Graham Richards, Director of Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said: "With the first lockdown eased, passengers started getting back on the railway and we also see a shift towards more off-peak travel. Train companies rose to this challenge by increasing services to allow for social distancing on trains to meet demand.

“But when passengers return during 2021, it is important that the rail industry maintains the good punctuality we’ve seen recently and provides clear and accurate information to help passengers plan and make journeys with confidence and ease.”

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A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have run a safe, clean and punctual service for all passengers who were still travelling with us. We saw passenger numbers increase gradually after the first lockdown, as the Government advice meant that people could then use the railway for all journeys.

"Currently, the whole of our network is in Tier 2. Official advice is that you can travel for work, leisure or education, but you should consider making fewer journeys.

“We’d like to remind anyone thinking of catching a train to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth for the entire journey, including at the station, and to wash and sanitise their hands regularly.”