Rail-based business travel drops as government advised cuts

Rail-based business travel drops as government advised cuts

Business travel taken on trains has decreased for the first time in five years despite increased awareness of the market and its environmental benefits. A survey of transactions from April to June show that receipts for rail journeys dropped by 175, 250, or 14%, compared to this year’s first quarter and 2% down from the same quarter last year. The sector has seemingly been replaced by air transport as corporate travel picks up, with air transactions recording growth of 6% and ancillary revenue from insurance, visa services, baggage check-in etc up 6% compared to 2010’s Q2. In addition car hire receipts improved 10% and hotel transactions increased 8%. Overall the statistics, released by the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC), showed a slower rate of growth for business travel at 4% this quarter compared to 10% growth in the first quarter. Despite the improved air travel data, Anne Godfrey, chief executive of the GTMC said the fall was due to a reduction in travel by civil servants. “Overall growth in business travel is healthy and steady but the decrease in rail bookings is significant and would appear, as expected, that public sector cuts have impacted on this mode of transport, which has been so popular with civil servants,” she said. “Rail was the first mode of transport to recover to pre 2008 levels, with increased transactions reported in every 2010 survey and a 10% growth that year. This dramatic drop in transactions will be monitored carefully in coming months”. The results come as government has been advised by Sir Roy McNulty to remove staff from 675 train stations across the UK. It is unclear how the government will react to the consultation, which would affect mainly rural areas but some small towns and stations in London. The advice has been criticised as vending machines do not display all tickets or the cheapest price, although the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) said that sales at stations now only account for 35% of tickets sold. Meanwhile the number of tickets sold online has more than trebled in the last five years and risen 89% from the vending machines. “Currently, any changes to ticket office opening times have to undergo a rigorous consultation process and ensure that passengers’ needs continue to be met,” said a spokesperson for the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). “We recognise the importance of having staff at stations and understand that passengers want to talk to another human being, in particular when there is disruption”.

Gary Marshall
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Gary Marshall
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