THE latest figures on rail use obtained by Transport for the North show that, despite infrastructure constraints and reduced levels of service, the North of England has led the return to rail in the second half of 2021.

The data provided to TfN’s Rail North Committee by rail operators - Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) - confirm the leisure sector led the charge with weekends often at pre-Covid levels of travel.

While Northern reported that, up until two weeks ago, it had been seeing revenue at 95% of pre-Covid levels and demand, for some periods, at 85% of pre-Covid levels, TPE said its leisure services had been operating at 89% of pre-Covid levels.

Figures released by the Department for Transport just before Christmas showed national rail use now at around 60% of pre-Covid levels for the week ending December 9 - significantly below that in the North of England.

While recent storms and the Omicron variant of Covid has since depressed demand, both operators have reported to TfN’s Rail North Committee that, for months, the North has been bucking the trend with leisure travel.

Even up until Tuesday, December 14, Northern reported demand was still at 70% of pre-Covid levels.