Commuter rail journeys still at just 45% of pre-pandemic levels, new figures show

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Commuter journeys on Britain's railways are still at just 45% of pre-pandemic levels.

The figure for the number of journeys made by people commuting by train in mid-October was an increase from 33% in late August, according to industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

London has seen the slowest recovery - with demand at just 41% of levels experienced before the COVID-19 crisis, compared to 54% across the rest of Britain.

The figures show the difficulty faced by city centre businesses, with people who were required to work from home earlier in the pandemic continuing to do so now that restrictions have been axed.

The other possibility is that they are using other forms of transport, such as private cars.

The number of leisure journeys made by train has, however, picked up, being at around 90% of pre-pandemic levels and accounting for 55% of all rail journeys, compared to 33% in autumn 2019.

The RDG said train operators are continuing with enhanced cleaning regimes, and that four out of five carriages have systems that refresh the air every six to nine seconds.

The RDG commissioned research by consultancy WPI Economics which estimated that before the pandemic, train passengers travelling for leisure or work spent an average of £94 per trip excluding their train fare, such as in shops, restaurants, hotels and galleries.

That totalled an estimated £133bn a year.

RDG director general Andy Bagnall said: "Rail connects people to jobs and opportunities, helps tackle congestion, and leaves the air in towns and cities cleaner than other forms of transport, so we're keen to welcome more people back on board.

"Train companies are working hard to meet the changing needs of our passengers, including new flexi season tickets to give commuters more choice, while continuing to prioritise ventilation and extra cleaning, because as Britain recovers, every passenger delivers more than a journey."

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