Rail passenger numbers continue to rise under new figures as ridership heads back to pre-pandemic levels.
Numbers reached 92 per cent of normal levels in May from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd – and that was with a number of service cuts still in operation.
Government now hold a tighter leash on the rail network now than it has for many decades – including under British Rail.
Under BR operation was separate from civil servants, while now almost everything is tightly controlled in Whitehall.
Even under franchising much was set by central Government including most fares, timetables and stock.
Now franchising is gone – and control ever tighter.
That’s an issue when the Treasury and the DfT – doing their bidding – are cutting back services and forcing trains to be scrapped to avoid paying leasing costs.
Last month as passenger numbers continued to grow back, Southern sent 46 trains serving Metro routes to scrap with no replacement. That ensured services cuts elsewhere (the link to Milton Keynes from East Croydon has gone for example) and remaining services running shorter trains as the existing fleet was spread thinner.
The Department for Transport under Grant Shapps and Treasury under Chancellor Rishi Sunak show little interest in supporting sustainable travel.
Rushing 46 Southern trains into scrap – to give one example – gives very little leeway if numbers continue to rise.
The pandemic saw unprecedented challenges and rail – like much else – required heavy support. But now a return to normality is here, and government appear intent on “punishing” passengers and the network for issues beyond its control.
Just yesterday this site covered a new development of 340 homes set to be approved this week – where the nearest station is serviced by Southern Metro. It’s far from alone.
Will it get to the point where ever more rail services just cannot be boarded as government cut and passengers rise as more homes are built and the simple need to get to work, university, schools and leisure facilities continues?
Further road congestion in London and across the country looks inevitable unless a radical change in Westminster occurs.