FOR environmental groups in Ludlow and south Shropshire the past year has brought good news and bad.

Campaigns like the Shropshire Climate Action want to see more people using public transport like the railways but less use of the roads. But rail use has plummeted.

Rail passenger journeys in Great Britain fell to the lowest levels of annual passenger usage since at least before 1872, when records started, according to official statistics from the Office of Rail and Road.

Nationally, 388 million journeys were made in 2020-21 (April to March), which equates to only 22 per cent of the 1,739 million made in 2019-20.

Total passenger revenue in Great Britain was £1.9 billion in 2020-21, compared to £10.4 billion in 2019-20.

There were 80 million journeys made during the final quarter (Q4 January to March) of 2020-21, down from the 139 million made in the previous quarter (Q3 October to December) and the 133 million in Q2 (July to September). This was still more than double the 35 million journeys made in 2020-21 Q1 (April to June).

This unprecedented fall in usage can be attributed entirely to the impact of the pandemic.

Graham Richards, Director of Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said that the impact upon the railway network of the Covid-19 pandemic has been huge.

“This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the lowest annual fall since the time series began, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and ticketing revenue.

“Despite this, recent estimates published by the Department for Transport show that rail usage has recovered to around 45 per cent of pre-Covid levels by the end of May 2021.

“ORR continues to work closely to support industry and help passengers back on to the railway safely.”

The Government has announced a major restructuring of the railway system that will see what some regard as a re-nationalisation in all but name and the end of franchising.