The rail industry has cautioned that unless workers resume taking the train, city centers and High Streets may suffer long-term consequences. According to the Rail Delivery Group, train commuting is still just 33% of what it was pre-Covid, while car travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels (RDG).
It went on to say that if workers continued to go by car rather than rail, there would be greater pollution. Traffic bottlenecks and company closures might be a double headache for cities. According to the RDG, a 20% transition from rail to road would result in 300 million more hours of traffic congestion.
“With more individuals returning to work this month, encouraging people to take the train for their commute will be critical to avoid empty storefronts and polluting traffic congestion in cities around the country,” the report continued. The RDG predicted that rail travel to and from work will increase in September, but that it would take years to return to the levels experienced in 2019.
Train commuters were also important to city centers and high streets, according to the report. According to research conducted for the RDG by WPI Economics, these commuters spent £30 billion a year on food and drink, retail, entertainment, and culture, helping local companies.
According to Andy Bagnall, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, many commuters will likely combine home and office work in the future. He did add, though, that the extent to which people returned to work, as well as whether or not they used the train, would be critical.
“Taking the train has far-reaching implications for the future of thousands of small enterprises, local air quality, and the government’s net zero goals,” he said. Although commute and business rail travel were still well below pre-pandemic levels, leisure rail travel was returning more quickly, indicating that many people felt comfortable traveling by train.
The rail industry is undertaking a countrywide marketing campaign with the tagline “Let’s get back on track” to encourage more people to travel the train. New Flexi Season tickets have also been offered by rail operators, which offer a discount to commuters who travel to work two or three days a week.