The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has reported a 5.66 million increase in national passenger numbers in the first quarter of 2022, as people continue to return to the network following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions.
National passenger numbers increased by 5.66 million passengers or 5.1 per cent during the quarter. This was 0.7 per cent, or 838,149 passengers, lower during the same time last year.
The light rail network saw the largest proportional increase in passengers, with a 19.4 per cent rise or a 2.45 million increase in passengers, during the quarter.
Victoria recorded the biggest rise this quarter, with patronage up 23 per cent, but 33.4 per cent down on pre-COVID levels. NSW and ACT also recorded an increase in passenger numbers during the period.
Western Australia saw a 26 per cent fall, equating to 3,109,128 passengers, as it saw the introduction of new COVID restrictions, while South Australia saw a 24.4 per cent decrease or 880,908 fall in passengers during the quarter.
The Queensland floods impacted rail operations in the state during the quarter, where a 25.8 per cent decrease or 2,571,888 fewer passengers was recorded.
Increasing patronage was recorded against all rail modes, with light rail having the greatest rise in numbers. Patronage remained 45.4 per cent – or 96.39 million passengers – down on pre-COVID levels.
Regional rail passengers increased by 555,990 or 9.6 per cent for the quarter, while urban rail increased by 2.34 million or 2.5 per cent.
Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Chief Executive Officer Caroline Wilkie said the return to rail had begun as more people re-joined the network to get to work, school or leisure activities, but greater use of rail was still needed.
“We are seeing in both Australia and overseas that people are returning to public transport, which is a wonderful indication of the increased level of activity in our cities and towns,” Wilkie said.
“With rising petrol prices and traffic congestion, there has never been a better time to choose public transport.”