THE British Railway Industry Association (RIA) has welcomed figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) showing that passenger levels reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels on March 18, with figures remaining around that level during the two weeks from March 7.

These are the highest figures since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the highest weekday figure since March 13 2020 when passenger traffic was at 92% of normal levels, but by then people had begun to stop travelling.

The figures remain similar at weekends, showing how the leisure market is returning at a faster rate than the commuter sector.

“To have around 80% of pre-Covid passenger levels during the middle of this month, only a matter of weeks after the end of Coronavirus restrictions, shows that passengers are returning in good numbers,” says Ms Kate Jennings, RIA’s policy director. 

Data produced by the DfT for rail is provisional for a period of seven days. The most recent figure, for March 28, shows 70% of pre-pandemic travel, but that will be altered once all data is collected.

At its lowest point, only 4% of pre-Covid-19 passengers were carried. This happened between April 14 and May 1 in 2020 when government advice was to stay at home.

Figures for Transport for London’s (TfL) Underground network continue to show it remains busier at weekends, with 60% of pre-Covid passengers travelling on March 28 and 81% on March 26. Unlike the national rail services, the TfL figures are not provisional. They also show a slight drop on weekday figures, with 66% and 67% of pre-Covid passenger traffic recorded the previous week.