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The coronavirus pandemic sent sales at online rail ticketing firm Trainline down to less than a fifth of last year's take as passenger numbers flatlined in the first half.
Although sales have begun to come back as lockdown restrictions were eased, business ticket sales remain mired at just four per cent of last year's levels.
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Over the first half, overall ticket sales fell to £358m, just 19 per cent of the figure for the same period in 2019.
There was a marked improvement between the first and second quarters, however, with sales rising from £79m (nine per cent) to £280m (30 per cent) over the two periods.
The best performing division was Trainline's international sales business, which hit 45 per cent of last year's take at £117m.
In terms of revenue, the decline in ticket sales meant the FTSE 250 firm recorded a £31m turnover overall, just 24 per cent of what it managed in 2019.
However, despite the sharp declines, Trainline said that an "accelerated shift" to online ticketing due to health concerns, as well as the slow return of passengers to the rail network, had pushed consumer sales up to 45 per cent year-on-year in August.
Shares in Trainline rose one per cent by the mid morning.
Why it's interesting
The first quarter of the financial year saw passenger volumes plummet to just five per cent of normal levels, hammering the UK's rail industry.
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Although passenger numbers have started to rise, figures from the Department for Transport show that the percentage of those using National Rail is still at just 36 per cent.
Most experts do not expect travel demand to return in the short term, leaving firms such as Trainline exposed while the virus continues to rage.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "The only route to growth for Trainline is to gain a greater share of the number of tickets sold.
"However, it feels like there is a natural limit here. Booking in advance makes sense when it can result in big savings on a longer journey which would typically see a traveller make plans in advance.
"But for short, one-off trips there's little point as it would only make them less flexible."
What Trainline said
Chief executive Clare Gilmartin said: "By acting quickly and remaining agile, we continue to successfully navigate through the significant disruption Covid-19 has caused to the rail and coach industry.
Read more: Boris Johnson confirms rail industry working on flexible season tickets
"We have rapidly processed unprecedented levels of customer refunds, reduced costs and ensured we have enough liquidity to operate for the foreseeable future.
"I'm pleased to now see the industry recovering, particularly in our International markets, as well as a faster shift to online reservation and digital ticketing, as anticipated, given the increased customer need for touchless travel."
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