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The numbers behind the changing face of the UK rail industry.

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on Sep 26, 2016

A train at Brighton Station, UK. (Picture courtesy of Tim Bigger)To commuters enduring Southern Rail during its recent spate of problems, or those following the tortuous debates over the proposed High-Speed 2 Link, rail travel in the United Kingdom can seem like a series of negative stories. And certainly the industry is sometimes guilty of not publicising its achievements enough, for over the last 15 years, the UK rail network has enjoyed a continuous period of growth and development. This period has seen expenditure increase by around 60%, driven partly by the £38 billion cost of Network Rail’s five year investment plan due to complete in 2019. Since 2004, Britain has seen a 48.8% growth in passenger kilometres, which is higher than the average growth across the EU of 17.5%. To learn more about the numbers driving the growth of the rail network in the UK, SmartRail World’s Emily O’Dowd spoke to SilverRail to learn about a report they’ve recently published ‘Jumping the Barriers’ that offers a high-level snapshot of the nation's rail market. It’s a very interesting read, and some of the findings may be surprising!

The report penned by SilverRail ( @SilverRailTech ) market analysist Irina Danila finds that Britain has over 15,760 km of rail routes, significantly less than Germany (41,000 km) and France (29,000 km). But compared to the UK, France and Germany have seen smaller increases in passenger kilometres between 2004 and 2014, with increases of 20.4% and 19.9% respectively.

Transport Focus, the independent passenger watchdog, reported in spring 2016 that 80% of National Rail passengers were satisfied with their journeys. Passengers that were looking for punctuality, reliability and cleanliness were pleased by the service offered to them. This satisfaction can be translated into the high volumes of people that are using the train lines; in fact the average person in 2014 made 21 rail trips which amounts to a total of 540 miles.

The number of train services running has risen by 28% since the late 1990s, to more than 8 million trains annually. Within London the number of journeys continued to rise in 2015, up to 492.2 million per year, a 6.0% increase from 2014. In addition, more than 1.3 billion passenger journeys were made on the Tube in 2015, an increase of 3.2% on the previous year.

Yet in 2014-2015 the Economic Forum ranked the UK 16th for quality out of 104 countries sampled, so it will be interesting to see how the UK rail service will improve for the amount of passengers it transports as the investment continues.

Kings Cross Station, London

The report also focusses on how traveller behaviour has also changed due to better technological advancements. Many customers are now booking via mobile phone apps for their convenience. As well as improving ease, passengers are more conscious about costs. 39% of tickets are season tickets, whilst a further 39% of passengers purchase anytime/peak tickets. Another way that 3.2 million travellers are saving money is with discounted railcards. The young person’s railcard has been the most popular out of all other railcards as 1.54 million cards have been issued. These reduced costs are encouraging a larger proportion of the population to use rail travel.

With these promising figures especially amongst the younger generations and combined with the price inelastic demand, we know one thing; passengers will not be priced off the platforms just yet. Importantly, the report highlights how the average industry profit margin is 3.3% from 2015-16. Therefore, these journeys along with this revenue should mean more than one thing: rail passengers should expect smoother services, faster journey times and technological advancements. Surely this is the least that train operating companies can do?

 Read more about these key numbers by downloading the report by SilverRail here.


Andy Bourne (Head of Upgrades, Transport for London) and Michael Brown (Head of Operations, TfL Crossrail) are among many leading speakers confirmed for SmartMetro in Copenhagen, 1st-3rd so click now to find out more. 


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Topics: Passenger Information Systems

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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