ScotRail passenger numbers rebound from lockdown dips after travel restrictions eased
The boost from what is now the busiest day of the week for the operator has taken the daily total to a new high since the start of the Covid crisis in March of last year.
It is believed to have been triggered by the easing of travel restrictions in Glasgow, where most ScotRail trains operate, the day after the city moved from level three to level two.
Overall, ScotRail ridership rose to 40% of normal in the week through last Sunday, down from just 10% three months ago.
The apparent rising confidence of people to travel is also reflected in the number of over 60s and others using their free bus passes, which has soared to 55% of normal.
Ferry and car travel to Scotland last week were only 5% below pre-Covid levels, but air travel is down 70%.
However, ScotRail COO David Simpson told The Scotsman he expected passenger numbers to return to just 80% of normal over the next three years.
The company operates 82 percent of its normal services and this is only expected to increase to around 85 percent in December and to almost 90 percent next May.
Mr Simpson said current services were “more than sufficient to meet the levels of demand we expect to see during the summer and fall.”
He said: ‘We have seen healthy growth in recent weeks, coinciding with the easing of lockdown restrictions across Scotland.
“We are seeing passengers coming back, but we have yet to see a marked return of commuter traffic.”
Mr Simpson predicted there would be fewer commuters five days a week, but more flexible work and play, sightseeing and off-peak travel.
He also hoped that the record punctuality achieved during the closures would continue as more passengers returned.
He said: “We have analyzed train performance to death and learned from it in the current schedule to make it more resilient.
“We have refined the schedule to make it more robust and reliable.
“Although we have seen an increase in the number of passengers, we have always maintained these high performance levels. ”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: ‘Although we have seen a welcome return of rail, we are still a long way from the previous record number of passengers.
“We work closely with industry partners to keep essential services in motion, while monitoring passenger trends and planning for future schedule changes.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is clear from the financial challenges we face that we will need to re-evaluate the way we provide services, including ticketing and stations, to ensure they provide the best value for people. public funds, while meeting demand and encouraging future growth.