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Airline style discounting by rail cuts aviation's market share

Young people, the over-60s and passengers with disabilities are helping to increase rail’s share of the domestic travel market due to train companies’ use of airline style pricing and Railcard discounts.

On the 10 most popular domestic air routes in Britain, rail’s market share grew to 46% last year up from 29% in 2006, according to research by the Association of Train Operating Companies released today.

The findings also show that on these routes, between the financial years 2006/7 and 2012/13:

• Use of Railcards, providing a third off most fares, has risen by 93%, far outstripping the 49% growth in overall train journeys. Over this period, the number of journeys made with Senior Railcards has risen on average by 145%, Disabled Persons Railcards by 140% and 16-25 Railcards by 88%.

• Sales of cheap Advance fares, available up to 12 weeks ahead of travel, have grown even faster, rising by 103%. Advance fares are now used by around four out of every seven rail passengers on these routes, and sales of First Class Advance tickets have more than doubled on many of them. Use of Off-Peak fares has also seen 32% growth.

• Purchases of full price Anytime fares have reduced by over a third – on average, nine out of 10 journeys in 2012/13 were made with Advance and Off-Peak tickets.

Operators also attribute the rise in market share to significant investment in and improvements to services. Since privatisation, the number of services across the rail network per day has risen by 4,000, or 20%, and passenger satisfaction as measured by independent watchdog Passenger Focus has risen from 76% in 1999 to 85% today.

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of ATOC, said: “Train companies have been winning market share from airlines by competing head to head and adopting airline-style discounting.

“Significant investment and an industry focused on attracting passengers are creating a virtuous circle where growing revenue is sustaining funding for faster and better services, in turn encouraging more rail travel.”

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