Understanding the market for "out of normal hours" train services in Great Britain

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, operations - scheduling, operations - service span, place - europe, planning - surveys, ridership - demand, ridership - forecasting, economics - fare revenue


existing hours of service, extending service, forecasting demand, revenue generation


Rail demand and revenue impacts (both abstractive and generative) due to extending the hours of train service operation, were estimated using surveys of passengers on services with existing ‘extended hours’ (both earlier in the morning and later at night). The findings provide evidence on which to estimate likely revenue when developing a business cases considering changes to the hours of train service operation. Most local train services in Britain start around 05.30 in the morning and finish around 23.30 at night. However, there are a few services with extended hours, some of which operate throughout the night. Existing hours of train service operation are generally based on ‘what has always been done’ and may not be optimised to today's patterns of (potential) demand. They do not often reflect changes in society and the economy, particularly people’s propensity to undertake leisure activities later in the evenings and changes to working hours and commuting patterns. This paper explores passengers’ use of train services with existing extended hours of service operation and estimates the likely amount of demand and revenue generation operators could expect by extending the hours that they operate. Specifically, the paper addresses the following: - If services continued later in the evening, or started earlier in the morning, how much additional (new) demand and revenue would be generated versus passengers simply moving from (abstractive) existing train services? - Or, conversely, if services started later and/ or finished earlier than currently, what would the demand impact be? A case study approach was adopted, to deliver insights across the following markets: - Short and medium distance journeys to/from London and the South East - Short and medium distance journeys to/from one or more major cities (non-London) - Medium distance intercity journeys. Self completion surveys were used to capture data, key questions were: - If trains on this route did not run between 23:30 and 06:00, what would you have done? (a list of options was provided) - If all existing rail routes ran trains through the night, for similar journeys in the future would you (a) use the same route (b) switch to a different route? Other key information collected included: journey purpose, origin/ destination, group size and ticket type (important as some passengers would have season tickets, and so although demand might be generated, there would be no additional revenue). Information about passengers’ attitudes towards personal safety and service reliability was also captured. In addition to the core rail surveys, additional surveys were undertaken (with similar questions) on London Underground (which generally operates earlier in the morning and later in the evening), and on a few late night bus services. Very careful piloting was necessary to ensure that passengers could answer questions when they might be tired, or in certain cases had consumed considerable quantities of alcohol.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by AET, copyright remains with them.