DfT rail statistics suggest positive outlook for UK rail

10 December 2020

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) has responded to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) recently published Rail Factsheet 2020, emphasising the positive long-term outlook for the sector. 

Despite the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on rail travel, the Government’s latest statistics demonstrate the strong growth rail has seen over the last three decades and the continued progress in key areas such as safety and decarbonisation. The headline statistics include:

  1. Rail usage, as measured by passenger numbers, was the second highest on record in the last year to March 2020, at 1.7 billion journeys. This has more than doubled since 1994/95. This figure could have been higher, were it not for the impact of Coronavirus on travel in the second half of March 2020.
  2. Trips by rail per person per year has increased 58% since 2002.
  3. Rail carbon emissions have decreased 4.1% in 2019-20, compared to 2018-19.
  4. Investment in rail by the Government increased 6.2% in 2019-20, compared to 2018-19.
  5. Rail remains the safest form of transport in terms of fatalities, compared to other modes of public transport, at 0.2 fatalities per billion passenger miles in 2019-20.

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association, commented: “The DfT rail statistics published this week highlight the value and importance of our rail network for the UK.

“They show an industry thriving before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, with buoyant, almost record, passenger numbers despite the country being in lockdown for half of March. Although the pandemic reduced traffic on the network, rail has shown itself to be an essential service, ensuring key workers and resources are able to get to where they need to be at a critical time for the country.

“We are pleased to see a reduction in carbon emissions from across the rail network, however there is still more to do in this area if we are to meet Net Zero by 2050. The fact there were only 37 single track kilometres electrified during this year is concerning.

“Looking ahead, post pandemic we are confident rail will play a key role, although Government support is needed. So we continue to ask it to publish the list of projects in the Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) as soon as possible, to help Speed Up Rail Enhancements and enable rail suppliers to plan for the months and years ahead.

“As RIA’s ‘10 Reasons to Continue to Invest in Rail’ document shows, providing certainty and starting work now will ensure we have a rail network fit for the future, boosting jobs and investment as we seek to help spur the economic recovery next year.” 

Notes to Editors


  1. The Department for Transport’s Rail Factsheet 2020 can be downloaded here.
  2. RIA’s ‘10 reasons to invest in rail’ document can be viewed here.
  3. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. RIA has 300+ companies in membership in a sector that contributes £36 billion in economic growth and £11 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 600,000 people—more than the workforce of Birmingham. It is also a vital industry for the UK’s economic recovery, supporting green investment and jobs in towns and communities across the UK. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number). RIA works to promote the importance of the rail system to UK plc, to help export UK expertise around the globe and to share best practice and innovation across the industry.

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