Open for business again

£46bn staycation prize for businesses worst hit by pandemic

  • New research shows how train travel will be vital this summer to help local businesses hit hardest by the pandemic
  • Research shows people travelling by train for days out and holidays spend on average £107 per trip on shopping, eating out, hotels and other activities
  • Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses are concerned about traffic congestion, difficulty receiving deliveries and worse parking if rail passengers switch to cars

New research into the spending habits of rail passengers has revealed the vital role people travelling by train for days out and weekends away will play in helping shops, restaurants and hotels to bounce back this summer.

According to the research by WPI Economics, carried out on behalf of the Rail Delivery Group, encouraging people back on board trains will generate billions in knock-on spending, boosting businesses and the economy.

On average, train passengers travelling for leisure spend £107 per trip on things like shops, restaurants and hotels, the research found. The report estimates that passengers across Britain travelling by train for days out pre-pandemic spend a total of £46bn per year on these activities.

The biggest spending by people taking the train for leisure is on food and drink at £15bn per year (an average £33 per trip), followed by £12bn (£31 per trip) on shopping, £10bn (£21 per trip) on accommodation and £5bn (£12 per trip) on entertainment and culture.

The research also shows how vital day-trippers-by-rail are to small firms with four in ten (39%) people surveyed saying that half or more of their spending is with small or independent businesses.

Train travel also brings wider benefits to those businesses hardest hit. A survey of SMEs in the retail and hospitality sectors found that they value the social benefits that the railway brings to their business, such as reduced congestion, at £1.2bn. When asked about their concerns if rail passengers don’t return and turn to cars instead, firms said they were particularly worried about traffic congestion (33% saying this is one of their top three concerns), difficulty receiving deliveries (32%) and worse parking availability (30%).

To help kickstart businesses getting their customers back, train companies are offering 12 people the chance to win free travel for a year as part of a ‘golden ticket giveaway’, with bespoke tickets designed by artist Claire Rollet. People can nominate someone who they think deserves a year of free travel by visiting

Jacqueline Starr, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“We’re looking forward to connecting more customers with the people and places they love this summer, whether that’s a seaside trip with family, a night out with friends or a solo shopping spree. By taking those trips by train, it’s more than just a journey, it’s a boost for businesses that have struggled throughout the pandemic and a step towards a cleaner environment.”

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of British Independent Retailers Association, said:

“Independent retailers have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic and right now they are working hard to rebuild their businesses and consumer confidence. Making the high street safe, sustainable, and accessible is our top priority.

“With a return to rail, independent shops far and wide will be more accessible – and trips more sustainable - than ever.”

Mike James, Food Tour Guide at Savouring Bath, said:

“The pandemic has really taken its toll on small businesses, not just in Bath but throughout the country. A return to rail will have an immensely positive impact on the fortunes of our business and many others in the area. I’m excited for the next chapter and to help many more people discover this fabulous city using their tastebuds.”

Mike James Savouring Bath

Tracy Harrison, General Manager at The Principal York Hotel, said:

“Being only steps from York train station puts us at a unique advantage, allowing for a seamless journey for our guests who travel to us via rail. We can see first-hand the considerable benefits that rail brings to our city, and we very much look forward to welcoming a return to normal service, and the perks it generates for our local economy and communities.”

Tracy Harrison The Principal York Hotel

Rail companies are helping people travel with confidence by continuing extra cleaning, providing information about busy services and providing ventilation that refreshes the air in carriages at least every ten minutes.

Contact Information

Notes to editors

  • The rail industry is offering people the chance to win a year of free rail travel so they can make the most of their time off now restrictions have eased. More information about the giveaway can be found here:
  • WPI Economics were commissioned to carry out a study of the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail by the Rail Delivery Group. This included an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,241 residents of Great Britain between 16th and 22nd June 2021 carried out by Savanta ComRes. Alongside this they carried out an online survey of 103 decision-makers in retail and hospitality businesses across the country between 23rd June and 5th July about the value of the rail network to their business. The full WPI Economics report is available here: 
  • Official statistics on rail passenger numbers compared to pre-pandemic levels can be found here: