Station passenger numbers still just 60 per cent pre-Covid levels

RAIL usage at the three main stations serving Tunbridge Wells has still not recovered from the pandemic, with total journeys at just 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Tunbridge Wells station saw 2.09 million passenger journeys – entrances and exits at the station – between March 2021 and April 2022, according to the latest figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

This is 45 per cent below 2018-19 passenger numbers and represents just 54 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic.

However, this does represent an increase of 735,876 entrances and exits at Tunbridge Wells station on the 2020-21 figures, when passenger numbers plummeted during the pandemic restrictions.

High Brooms, on the same train line, saw passenger numbers down 38 per cent since 2018-19, to 775,584 entrances and exits in 2021-22.

Paddock Wood also fared better than Tunbridge Wells, with 742,026 passenger journeys standing just over 60 per cent of the 2018-19 level of 1.21 million.

Season ticket travellers, which traditionally made up around half of all passengers in Tunbridge Wells before the pandemic, have decreased significantly over the last four years.

ORR figures for 2021-22 show that season ticket journeys now represent no more than 25.5 per cent of journeys at Tunbridge Wells station – or just 536,252 journeys, down from 47 per cent in 2018-19 – or 1.08 million entrances and exits.

Half of passenger journeys at High Brooms and Paddock Wood were by season ticket holders in 2018-19: 633,218 and 625,374 passengers respectively, but in 2021-22, just a third of journeys at the two stations were by season ticket holders.

Robert Mansfield of the Tonbridge Line Commuters group told the Times that the downturn in passenger numbers was not just caused by changes to working patterns and that rail operators had actually reduced capacity on the railways.

“The new timetable [from December 11] will reduce it more, and we think that is quite a risk.”

Referring to one change – to the Medway line – he said: “That sort of decision will drive people to cars.”

The figures come while rail workers are preparing to strike next week over conditions and pay.

Members of the RMT union are preparing to walk out on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December, as well as Friday 16 and Saturday 17.

“It’s very interesting that more strikes are happening on Saturdays,” said Mr Mansfield. “Traditionally, strike action would target weekday commuters for the most impact.”

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