The impact of a year of coronavirus on the UK’s rail network has been laid bare as Trainline revealed a sales plunge.
The train and coach ticket travel platform said net sales for the 12 months to the end of February were 23% of levels before the pandemic, with revenues of just £473 million, compared with £2 billion a year earlier.
Business travel performed even worse, with £75 million in net ticket sales, compared with £1.2 billion a year earlier.
It means the company saw total UK ticket sales of £548 million, compared with £3.24 billion previously.
International sales fared better, falling by just over 50%.
Bosses said they were hopeful for the future and saw strong pick-up during the summer months when restrictions were eased.
The company said: “Encouragingly, when lockdowns and restrictions were eased during the summer months of 2020, leisure and commuter passenger volumes recovered relatively quickly in Trainline’s key European markets, while Trainline’s UK consumer net ticket sales recovered faster than the market, reflecting an acceleration in the shift to online and digital channels.”
Burning through around £5 million cash a month on average – which was lower than initial forecasts of £8 million to £9 million – means adjusted underlying losses are likely to be between £24 million and £27 million.
Bosses raised £150 million through a bond issue in January, meaning its future is safe and more marketing is expected as customer demand returns.
With more businesses indicating they will not be expecting workers to return to a five-day working week in the office, Trainline said it will be investing in a “‘new commuter’ experience” including new digital flexible season tickets.
Chief executive Jody Ford said: “The last 12 months have clearly been challenging for the industry. However, we are confident we will see more customers booking rail travel online and a continued market shift to digital when Government lockdown restrictions ease, as we did last summer.
“Over the year we have kept our foot on the accelerator improving the customer experience, which means we are well positioned to capitalise on this shift to online and digital, and to support rail industry recovery when people start travelling again.
“In particular, we have leveraged our customer insights and data to understand the ‘new commuter’ and invested in app technology that will support the UK rollout of new Flexi Tickets.”