Survey on Britain’s train travel habits reveals 4% growth


The average Briton is taking more rail journeys, travelling further and buying more discounted tickets than in the 1990s, new research has revealed.

The latest industry figures about the nation’s train travel habits, collated by accountants KPMG and released by the Rail Delivery Group, helps to explain why Britain’s railway has become Europe’s fastest growing network.

Journeys on Britain’s railway have grown by 4% a year on average since the late 1990s, compared to 0.3% in the 1980s and early 1990s, and at more than double the rate of the economy in the past decade and a half.

According to the survey, the average Briton:

  • Takes 24 journeys a year by rail, up 60% in comparison to 1998 data
  • Travels 584 miles by train a year, compared to 380 miles 15 years ago.*
  • Takes the same number of rail trips as the average German
  • Takes more rail trips than the French (17 journeys per person) and the Dutch (19 journeys)
  • Paid almost 50p in every £1 spent on rail fares on discounted tickets last year, up from 36p 10 years ago.

Analysis of rail services also revealed:

  • There are now 1.6m more services a year than ran 15 years ago, up 28%
  • 1.4bn punctual journeys are made a year, up 600m compared to 1997-98
  • 1.2bn journeys are described as ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’, 550 million more than in 1999 when surveys began.

Operator profits were £270m in real terms when private train companies first took over services in the 1990s and are now £250m. Over the same period the money operators generate that goes back to government to reinvest in more and better rail services has risen from £390m to £1.96bn, a 400% increase.

Martin Griffiths, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group and Stagecoach Group chief executive, said: “Passengers in Britain are flocking to board Europe’s best railway, attracted by newer trains, more services and great deals.

“Rail’s transformation comes from a winning combination of private sector innovation and government policy. Operators have used commercial acumen to attract passengers, and the growth in revenue has played a crucial role in enabling government to invest record sums through Network Rail.

“As passengers are at the heart of what we do, we know we must keep improving and investing, driving up the quality of services to respond to our customers’ needs.”

The Association of Train Operating Companies commissioned KPMG in 2013 to collate publicly-available industry data on passenger rail operations and analysis on the key aspects of performance in the period since the introduction of franchising.  The RDG asked KPMG to update this data in May 2014 and based its report on that updated dataset. The report is available by clicking here.

* Altogether Britons travel over 36.2 billion miles by train a year – equivalent to travelling to the Sun and back over 300 times.