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Rail Partners responds to latest ORR passenger usage statistics

08 June 2023

Responding to the ORR’s latest passenger usage statistics, John Thomas, director of policy at Rail Partners said:

‘The increase in passengers travelling by train in the last quarter is positive, however these statistics demonstrate the negative impact of prolonged industrial action on the railway and underline the importance of giving operators the ability to attract customers back to the railway following the pandemic.

‘What’s clear from the data is that where more commercial freedoms exist, such as for open access operators, passengers are returning more quickly. To meet the financial challenges the railway faces and harness the potential of rail as an engine for green growth, government must urgently push ahead with contractual reform to give operators greater commercial freedoms and drive further recovery.’

Notes to editors
  • The full ORR passenger usage dataset between January and March 2023 can be found here
  • The latest ORR data shows that despite the ongoing industrial action, passenger numbers have increased over the previous quarter, reaching 88% of the 443 million journeys taken in the same quarter four years ago (pre-pandemic).
  • Some open access operators have recorded in Q4 relatively more journeys than before the pandemic – Hull trains 122% and Grand Central 111% of pre-pandemic journeys.
  • The data shows that there were nine days of strike action during Q4, with a reduction of trains on these days ranging from 32% - 81% less than on a typical day.
  • Research carried out by independent economic analysts, Oxera, shows that Treasury is missing out on as much as £1.6bn over two years due to restrictive contracts for operators, reducing their ability to attract customers away from domestic air travel and their cars: report
  • The scale of the financial challenges facing the sector emerging from the pandemic, and our proposed solutions to attract passengers back, are outlined in Rail Partners' Fork in the Tracks.
About Rail Partners

Rail Partners exists to make the railway better by harnessing the expertise and creativity of private sector operators for the benefit of those who use the railway, passengers and freight customers, and those who pay for it, including taxpayers. 

Rail Partners provides advocacy and policy solutions for its private sector passenger owning group and freight company members. Rail Partners additionally provides technical services to train operating companies in both the public and private sectors. For more information regarding our membership visit

A full list of our owning group and freight operating members can be found here

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