Britain's railway has enjoyed 25 years of continual growth since the mid-1990s. Even during the financial crisis rail patronage was barely affected, unlike previous recessions.
COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to the railway since the Beeching era.
The future of the railway depends upon attracting a sufficient number of passengers to pay fares that cover a significant proportion of the costs of running the railway, and to justify the public subsidy for the remainder. The railway offers numerous benefits to the country, including economic and environmental, but the value of these depends on passenger numbers.
Quite rightly, train travel was limited to 'key workers' only during the initial COVID-19 lockdown. However, after people were given the freedom to leave their homes for leisure purposes, they were told to travel by car rather than use public transport! The message to avoid trains lasted for a further two months in England (and longer in Scotland and Wales). This apparent demonising of the railway by government led to train operators discouraging the public from using trains and arguably exacerbated any fears they had, even after the wearing of face coverings became mandatory (unless exempted). As a result, passenger numbers are still just a small fraction of what they were back in February 2020.
In order to maximise the chance for social distancing (spreading out) on the trains, many of the train services have been reinstated. This is good, but trains without passengers cannot be sustained.
The Railfuture Webinar asks what needs to be done to attract passengers back to the railway. This will be a challenge, not just to convince the public that train travel is safe, but to ensure that railway represents value for money in the 'new normal' where people no longer commute five days a week.
Our five speakers represent the key players in the rail industry in Britain. They will be talking about various solutions including:
We will be asking each of our five speakers what the government and rail industry – and their organisation – should do to increase passenger numbers.
Please register to join this Webinar.
Also see: [Article about the event] [Speaker Biographies].
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