Trainline hails ‘first signs of recovery’ after pandemic-driven losses

Ticket sales app Trainline has revealed that the pandemic sent it slumping to a hefty annual loss, but there were signs that demand for rail travel is returning as lockdown lifts.

Library image of a cleaner using a fogging machine to clean a train carriage during the night
Library image of a cleaner using a fogging machine to clean a train carriage during the night

The group saw pre-tax losses widen to £106.8 million for the year to February 28 from £80.2 million the previous year after net ticket sales plummeted 79%.

It said the first quarter of its new financial year has seen the “first signs of recovery” as net ticket sales have risen with the return of non-essential travel across the UK.

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The group is optimistic for demand after seeing a strong pick-up during the summer months last year when restrictions were eased.

Trainline’s recently appointed chief executive, Jody Ford, said: “Last year was clearly very challenging for the industry.

“However, as we enter 2021-22 we are seeing the first signs of recovery, with net ticket sales increasing as lockdowns ease and as non-essential travel returns, particularly in the UK.”

Mr Ford, who took over from Clare Gilmartin at the end of February, said the group is “keeping our foot on the accelerator” with new products and ready to take advantage of the expected rebound in demand as lockdown ends.

But the results lay bare the impact of the coronavirus crisis on the UK’s rail industry, with consumer net sales for the year just 23% of levels before the pandemic.

UK consumer ticket revenues tumbled to £473 million, compared with £2 billion a year earlier.

Business travel performed even worse, with £75 million in net ticket sales, compared with £1.2 billion a year earlier.

It means the company saw total UK ticket sales of £548 million, compared with £3.24 billion previously.

The group was burning through around £5 million cash a month on average, though this was lower than initial fears of £8 million to £9 million.

Trainline is aiming to take advantage of the shift towards online and mobile ticket sales, as travellers shun ticket machines and station queues in the pandemic.

The Government is also guiding passengers to book in advance.

But with more businesses indicating they will not be expecting workers to return to a five-day working week in the office, Trainline is investing in a “new commuter experience”, including new digital flexible season tickets.