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New statistics show rail not roads connecting the economy and communities

5 June 2014
As Government plans a big road building programme in its new Infrastructure Bill, figures released today have revealed rail passenger numbers growing fast while road traffic continues to stagnate.

Figures from the Office for Rail Regulation and Office for National Statistics show annual rail passenger growth of 5.7 per cent, while traffic volumes on A-road and local roads fell.

James MacColl, Campaigns Director, Campaign for Better Transport said

“The rapid growth in rail passengers particularly in London and the South East shows no signs of slowing. In comparison, traffic on most roads across the country is flat or falling. This shows how effective rail is in supporting the economy and connecting people.”

James MacColl continued

“The new numbers expose the folly of the Government's new Infrastructure Bill. It is demand for rail, not roads which is growing. Rather than planning a massive road building programme, Government should be investing in the rail network and making sure fares are affordable for everyone who wants to use the train.”


1. Rail Usage Statistics from the Office of the Rail Regulator show total number of rail passenger journeys across Britain was 1.59bn in 2013-14 – an annual increase of 5.7 per cent. Of the 1.59bn passenger journeys made on franchised operators, 56.5 per cent of journeys were made on ordinary tickets, and the remaining 43.5 per cent season tickets.

2. Strategic Road Network Traffic Statistics for 2013 produce by the ONS show a fall in traffic on A-roads, while traffic on Local Authority managed roads was flat.

There was an increase in motorway traffic, in part reflecting an additional 12 miles of motorway added to the network between 2012 to 2013

Traffic on all roads in 2013 was below the peak of 2003. This is despite nearly 1500 miles of addition road being built during this period.

3. The Infrastructure Bill was announced in the 2014 Queen's Speech. It contains measures including new freedoms for the Highways Agency, which is to become a Government Company.

4. The Government is bringing forward significant road building plans with £28bn set aside for roads in the next Parliament as part of the National Infrastructure Plan. Half of this is for the construction of new roads.

Government intends to increases in the Agency's capital budget from £1.5bn in '14/5 to £3.8bn in '20/21.

The majority of motorists regard the condition of existing roads as the key priority for investment (see recent IPPR research, for example). This reflects concerns over the condition of local roads. Based on its survey of local authorities, the Asphalt Industry Alliance puts the repairs backlog at £12bn.