Rail passenger numbers fell by four fifths during year of lockdowns

Ipswich station

Passengers were a rarity on Ipswich station during the lockdown. - Credit: Paul Geater

New data has been released showing the number of people who used the region's rail stations during the pandemic year.

Government watchdog the Office of Rail and Road has published figures showing that footfall at stations across the country fell by 78% in 2020/21 compared with the previous year.

That proportion was exactly mirrored at Ipswich, which saw passenger use fall from 3.3million to 727,000.

In Colchester there was a 76% fall from 4.2m to 1m and in both Stowmarket and Manningtree there was an 80% fall from about a million passengers to around 200,000.

Other stations showed a similar pattern: Bury St Edmunds footfall fell by 77% from 658,000 to 151,000 while Lowestoft fell by 75% from 400,000 to 103,000. Woodbridge and Saxmundham passenger numbers fell by similar proportions - although the fall in passengers at Felixstowe was only 66% with numbers going down from 170,000 to 59,000.

The financial year was book-ended by the two major lockdowns of March-June 2020 and January-April 2021 during which trains could only be used by those with specific reasons to travel - and since the spring there has been an increase in leisure travel.

This year's figures are expected to show many more passengers using stations - but are still likely to be significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels.

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said, "Passenger numbers are continuing to increase and we’re now carrying about 70% of our pre-pandemic passenger numbers across the network.

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"As more people return to rail, we are encouraging customers to wear a face covering, use the full length of trains and platforms, and opt for a quieter train using our online Less Busy Trains tool.

"We’re also continuing with enhanced cleaning and sanitisation of our trains and stations, doing everything we can to keep customers safe."

Passengers from the region who want to head to London for some weekend Christmas shopping or festive fun should find trains running to schedule after Network Rail completed a series of engineering works.

Every weekend should be clear until Christmas on the main line - although there will be bus replacement service on the two bank holidays after the festive shutdown to allow a bridge to be replaced at Chelmsford.