Impact of COVID-19 on the Rail Industry in Australia and New Zealand

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Impact of COVID-19 on the Rail Industry in Australia and New Zealand

Key Takeaways

Introduction

We have curated data that presents an overview of the impact of COVID-19 on the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand. We included, where publicly available, the overall utilization rates, and passenger rail utilization rates. We reviewed the differences between 2019 to 2021.

Rail industry: Australia and New Zealand — Impact of COVID-19

  • From January to August 2020, both Australia and New Zealand saw significant drops in passenger rail travel. Each month saw, on average, 33 million trips not being taken, which means that over that eight month time period there was a drop of 268 million trips overall.
  • Looking at the 8 months of data in 2020, the month that saw the biggest drop was April, likely because of the restrictions that were put in place in the latter half of March. When comparing 2019 to 2020, light rail networks were the hardest hit, losing 91% of their passengers in April year over year.
  • As COVID stay at home orders and quarantine restrictions have been relaxed, data shows that there has been a very slow return to the use of rail across Australia and New Zealand. This suggests that it will take some time before people in these two countries feel more confident using these forms of transportation. However, according to the graphic below people are more willing to ride the national trains, than they are the light rail.

  • Looking at New Zealand specifically, when there were no government restrictions from the beginning of June to the start of August 2020, people traveling by rail stayed at 31-35% below what it was in 2019. This suggests that just because restrictions are removed, does not make people have a sense of security for using the train as a means of transport.
  • In Western Australia, train passenger numbers remained 47% lower in June 2020, when compared to the same time in 2019. Moving forward to September 2020, things were not much improved with rider figures 30% lower than 2019.

  • In New South Wales, train and light rail passengers utilizing the rail network were down by 52% in September as compared to the same month in 2019. Those living in Queensland were using the train and light rail systems 58% less in June 2020, as compared to the same time frame in 2019, and in September, it was not much better, with ridership down 49%.
  • For Victoria light rail and train passengers, June numbers were down by 42%, but July figures dropped down to 64% lower when compared to the same month in 2019, and September produced a bigger drop to 81% lower year over year. South Australia train and light rail users during September were down 42% on 2019 levels.

  • When looking at the first three months of 2021, "national rail patronage remains at just 48%, or more than 100 million fewer passenger journeys, than pre-COVID levels." There was an increase of 8.6% during the first three months of 2021 specifically for national rail passengers, however, it should be noted that this represents a 41.5% decrease below the same time the previous year.

Research Strategy

For this research on the impact of COVID-19 on the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand, we leveraged the most reputable sources of information that were available in the public domain, including the websites of the rail companies themselves, as well as reputable and credible sources such as the Australasian Railway Association, the International Railway Journal, and Railway Technology.


Sources
Sources