Nearly 4,000 commuters prepare for the journey back to the office

Olympian Louis Smith

THOUSANDS of commuters in Tunbridge Wells face the journey back to the office now that Covid guidance to work from home has been scrapped, analysis from the Times can reveal.

From last week, the advice to ‘work from home if you can’ was lifted by the PM as the threat from the Omicron variant waned.

The measures to advise people not to go to the office were among the first Covid guidelines introduced in March 2020. They were lifted briefly last summer but then reintroduced in December over fears over the new variant.

Now analysis of the latest government rail figures by this newspaper can reveal the extent that the guidance has had on commuting at the three main stations in Tunbridge Wells.

From April 2020 to March 2021 rail journeys to and from Tunbridge Wells dropped by 80 per cent, figures released by the ORR reveal – the lowest rail usage statistics for more than 100 years.

Pre-pandemic, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) say there were 3.6 million entries and exits to Tunbridge Wells Station each year, but this fell to just 735,876 for the year ending March 2021.

This means there were 2.8 million fewer journeys taken at the town’s main station alone, and across the borough, more than 3,740 season ticket holders shied away from the rail network completely.

The figures show in 2019/20 there were around 598,116 exits and entries made at Tunbridge Wells Station by season ticket holders – around 2,245 daily journeys.

This has now fallen to just 239,000 annual exit and entries at the town’s main train station – or just 460 return journeys by season ticket holders over the five-day working week.

High Brooms also saw the number of daily season ticket journeys plummet last year from 1,229 to just 192 each day.

And Paddock Wood saw daily season ticket travellers drop from 1,150 to just 232 a day.

It is not just season ticket holders that have stayed away from the rail network.

While the ONS figures are based on estimates, for rail usage to return to pre-pandemic levels, an extra 9,000 return journeys will have to be made each day across all three stations.

Network Rail figures from last week show between 6am and 10.30am last Thursday [January 20], the day after the guidance to work from home was lifted, rail usage figures were up 10 per cent compared with the same period last week.



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