Rail passenger numbers keep on rising, despite internet growth

Overcrowding on trains

A regular criticism of HS2 is that remote working is reducing the need for travel and allowing workers to be equally productive in and out of the office.

Yesterday morning Steve Baker MP, who was one of the opponents calling for Thursday’s (October 13) Commons debate, tweeted that he was ‘getting plenty of work done’ on a fast train from Penrith to London.

Jerry Marshall from AGHAST told the Transport Select Committee he was as productive on trains as in the office.

Nobody who supports HS2 dismisses this technology and the great possibilities it brings.

However, as Professor Andrew McNaughton said, the internet allows people to roam more freely with work, rather than avoid travel.

People like to meet to do business face to face. It’s about building trust.

There are reports which question the quality and quantity of work completed on trains (read here) and reports concluding plenty of good work is done in transit.

However, one fact that cannot be disputed is the continuing rise in passenger journeys, despite developments in IT.

ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) released the latest passenger statistics yesterday (October 17).

  • Passenger numbers on the railways grew by 5.3% over the summer months.
  • The railways are set for their busiest peacetime year since the 1920s with well over 1.3bn journeys expected to have been made by train by the end of 2011.

When comparisons are made with the 1920s it is worth pointing out we have around half the network we had back then.

In Quarter 3 2011 (26 June – 17 September):

– There were 314.3 million passenger journeys, compared to 298.4m million in Q3 2010 – a rise of 5.3%.

Since rail privatisation was completed in 1997, passenger numbers have increased by 69%.

Rail continues to grow and the West Coast Main line becomes increasingly crowded.

So arguments about productivity while working on the train may become irrelevant unless we deal with the capacity problems we are facing.

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6 Responses to Rail passenger numbers keep on rising, despite internet growth

  1. Steve Baker MP says:

    Thanks for the mention. I was actually mocking the HS2 business case.

    • gohs2 says:

      Yes, we realised. Demand continues to grow on UK railways (5.3% in latest figures), despite increasing internet use. The internet allows people to travel more while working. We believe HS2 will bring jobs and opportunities to the West Midlands and deal with the capacity problems we are facing. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Also its worth mentioning that ideas of fixed broadband connections tying people to their homes is obselete now. With the rise of 4G technologies such WIMAX and LTE both promising mobile broadband speeds of over 10mb the future is in the mobile worker not the fixed one.

    This *will* have consequences for our transport system where fast mobile internet will foster MORE long distance travel not less.

    Technology it seems blows a gaping hole in the ANTI-HS2 case rather than helps it.

    • gohs2 says:

      Absolutely. Rail use continues to soar despite developments in communication technologies. Opponents seem to take an either/or position which is wrong. Both new communication technologies and HS2 are needed as David Cameron pointed out in his Conference speech.

  3. And, of course, you can use the internet while travelling on a train, but not while driving. The growth of social networking, cloud computing, tablets, media on the move etc. will surely prompt MORE people to use rail rather than wasting time sitting in a car. Whether they are working, watching a movie, reading the news, or playing a game.

    • gohs2 says:

      Yes, thanks for your comments Ian. There is plenty of debate about the quality of work that can be done on trains, but it is often overlooked that there is no option of working while driving.

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