Press releases

Regulator’s rail industry finance report shows impact of pandemic

30 November 2021
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has today published its Rail Industry Finance (UK) 2020-21 report.
Cover Image
Manchester Piccadilly station

The report shows the income, expenditure, and government funding of the UK rail industry for the financial year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. 

The rail industry in 2020-21 was substantially affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Passenger journeys fell to historically low levels and the government used emergency measures to keep train services running, which led to a large increase in train operator subsidy. 

The rail industry has started to recover from the impact of the pandemic. In 2021-22 Q1 (April to June 2021) 182 million rail passenger journeys were made in Great Britain, more than five times the 35 million journeys made in 2020-21 Q1. 

The main points include:

  • As a whole, the industry in 2020-21 cost £20.7 billion, which was funded through fares and other passenger income (£2.5 billion), government (£16.9 billion) and other sources (£1.3 billion). 
  • Fares income in 2020-21 was £1.8 billion, a drop of £8.6 billion from the previous year, due to the impact of the pandemic. The number of passenger journeys reduced by 77.7% in 2020-21 (compared to 2019-20). 
  • Government funding of the operational railway increased by £10.4 billion to £16.9 billion largely due to the use of emergency measures to support passenger train operators.
  • Industry expenditure was £21.0 billion in 2020-21. This represents a £0.8bn annual increase. The rail industry ran 20.9% fewer services which meant that variable expenditure, such as fuel, Network Rail charges etc. reduced. The pandemic also increased expenditure in some areas such as the cost of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), additional cleaning costs and staff absences.

Funding infographic

There has been a 2.4% increase in total railway industry income in 2019 to 2020. Fares income in Great Britain dropped by £8.6 billion to £1.8 billion due to the impact of the pandemic. Industry costs increased by 3.8% to £21.0 billion in 2020 to 2021. £5.6 billion was how much was spent on rail infrastructure enhancements and rolling stock in Great Britain in 2020 to 2021, and increase of 4.9% compared with the previous year.

Notes to Editors

  1. Rail Industry Finance (UK) 2020-21.
  2. All data tables, a quality and methodology report and an interactive tool associated with this release are published on the rail industry finance page of the ORR data portal.
  3. Rail industry income and expenditure 2020-21 (figure 1).