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Optimism increases over rail use

THERE are more predictions that the demand for rail travel is set to continue increasing until it reaches pre-Covid levels. However, the pattern of demand seems likely to change, with softer peak hours but greater demand for leisure travel.

The latest person to take this view is rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris, and it comes hard on the heels of a Network Rail statement saying that the number of passengers using Leeds on a Saturday earlier this month was back to normal.

At the moment, the Department for Transport is reporting that train travel has risen to about 57 per cent of its pre-Covid totals.

When he was asked if we will see passenger numbers recovering, Mr Heaton-Harris replied: ‘I think we will but I don’t think there will be the numbers at the same times of day that there used to be.’

He told the Press Association that ‘we’re going to be sweating the assets in a very different way. The leisure market is recovering, and recovering strongly.

‘Probably for the first time in the railway’s history you’re getting as many people travelling on Saturdays and Sundays as you are during the week, and in lots of places more.’

However, Mr Heaton-Harris also warned that ‘rail has to compete for its market’ against other modes of transport.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy has been saying for some time that the demand for leisure travel would rise once Covid restrictions had been lifted.

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