Passenger numbers up at Preston Railway Station

Figures boost hope for post-pandemic return of travelers in 2021

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 7:00 am

Preston’s railway station got busier with more journeys made last year, bolstering hopes passengers will return after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pressure group Railfuture said the impact of current travel restrictions is causing a “temporary blip” in the continued growth in railway usage nationally.

Office of Road and Rail data shows an estimated 4.9m passengers using Preston railway station in 2019-20.

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Office of Road and Rail data shows an estimated 4.9m passengers using Preston railway station in 2019-20

That's 291,000 more than the previous year, a rise of 6.3 per cent.

Across the North West, usage of railway stations increased by 17.1m to 250.8m in 2019-20, while across Britain it fell 1.1 per cent to 3bn.

The ORR has put the national reduction in journeys down to a “dramatic drop” in passengers in March due to Covid-19 restrictions, with lockdown introduced on March 23.

But Railfuture, an independent organisation with 20,000 members, is hopeful the railway system will recover.

Bruce Williamson, a spokesman for the group, said: “I am very confident that the railways will bounce back when Covid-19 is over.

“We can’t ignore the fact the world has changed and people working from home may stay put – but I still feel for the most part, things will return to normal.

“Considering the underlying trend of increased rail usage over the past 30 years, we have to look at Covid-19 as a temporary blip.”

In Preston there were 34 passenger journeys for every person living in the area in 2019-20 compared to the national rate of 75.

Jay Symonds, ORR senior statistical analyst, said: “The dramatic drop in passenger numbers towards the end of March due to Covid-19 explains much of the drop in usage compared to last year.”

He added: “With numbers staying at historically low levels during 2020, there is no doubt that next year will look a lot different.”