Economic benefit from rail tourism - case studies

Find out more about the economic benefit of rail to towns and regions.

cornwall prideCornwall Pride – Newquay

More than 5,000 people are expected to head to Newquay this weekend for Cornwall Pride. In its 11th year, the event has become increasingly popular and is now a highlight of the county’s summer calendar. This one expected to be the biggest yet, with thousands expected to travel by train. GWR is supporting the event by laying on additional trains and helping to promote it across their network. As part of the event, Newquay station will be transformed into rainbow colours, with specially designed signage.

Matthew Kenworthy Gomes, Chairperson of Cornwall Pride, said:

“The impact that this support has to the LGBTQ+ community in Cornwall, to everyone in Newquay, Cornwall and all the tourists attending is truly incredible. The support GWR gives to ours and other such events like Boardmasters in Newquay is vital to it's success. This ultimately impacts on everyone that works within the tourist industry in Newquay and Cornwall.”

sconesDevon and Cornwall Rail Partnership

In Devon and Cornwall, the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership – the first ever community rail partnership in the UK – has given the local tourist trade a real boost.

Covering seven branch lines in total, the community rail partnership brings together Cornwall Council, Devon County Council, Plymouth City Council, Great Western Railway, South Western Railway, Cross Country, and Plymouth University.

The partnership itself has helped to promote and enhance rail travel, securing more frequent trains, and refurbishing a number of local stations. This has given domestic and foreign tourists access to many of the region’s hidden gems, highlighting the huge array of landscapes, sights and attractions that the area offers and that can be easily enjoyed and accessed by train.

Passenger numbers on the branch lines have doubled since 2001, and with tourism making up a vital and growing contribution to the local economy, local communities have seen the benefits with the railway supporting £9.7 million of economic output (GVA) in Newquay, and £5.9 million of economic output (GVA) in St Ives.

Richard Burningham, Manager of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, a non-profit partnership between local authorities, the rail industry and the University of Plymouth, where it is based, and which works to promote local rural railways said:

“The ease of getting to Devon and Cornwall by train led to the two counties becoming the massively popular tourist destinations they are today and, as this very welcome research shows, the railway continues to play a huge role in bringing visitors to the region’s seaside towns and villages, to the year-round benefit of the local economy. The new trains now being introduced by GWR on the London route plus significant increases in local services in Devon and Cornwall coming in 2019 will see the railways’ contribution to the region grow further still and will also encourage even more people, local residents and visitors, to leave the car at home and take the train.”

Richard Gates, Falmouth Town Centre Manager said:

“In Falmouth we have seen the boost brought by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership first hand. For decades, people have been travelling by rail from all over Britain to spend their holiday in Devon and Cornwall and the Partnership is connecting even more holidaymakers with the local hotels, bars and restaurants which help our tourist sector thrive.

regattaTorbay Royal Regatta

The event has been taking place for over 200 years and is one of the oldest such events in the country. Organised by the Royal Torbay Yacht Club, it is one of the highlights of the sailing calendar in Torquay. This year sees the VXOne Sportsboat class choosing Torquay for their National Championship and the world’s top Junior and Youth boat will be at the regatta for their summer championship. While the 100 plus yachts and dinghies come by sea or road, the regatta is a popular social occasion for locals and visitors, so thousands of people are expected to head to the area to watch the racing and see the grand fireworks finale on Monday evening.

Simon Fishwick from Visit Devon, said:

“Rail tourism is critical to the success of the tourism industry within the county. Devon is relatively lucky with a mainline bisecting the county and several branch lines enabling tourists to access and visit the North, East, South and West of the County. The railway also provides a greener solution to travel in the region and takes pressure off the roads. The routes are also some of the most iconic rail journeys to be had in the UK passing through beautiful countryside with far ranging views. A rare treat and well worth the effort.”

drakesDrakes fish and chip shop – Torquay

Tourism, supported by rail, breathes life into the local economy of Torquay by connecting local businesses with new customers and opportunities.

One such business is Drakes Fish and Chips, which has been serving its traditional recipes to residents and tourists since it opened in the early 1990s. Located on Torquay’s main high street, the restaurant’s proximity to the local train station means the railway delivers a fresh supply of customers every day, and the restaurant regularly has queues out of the door. The restaurant has proved such a hit with tourists that the business has recently expanded into a 60 seater pub so now visitors can enjoy tea, a pint or a gin and tonic with their award winning cod and chips!

Manager of Drakes Valerie Boatwright said:

“Tourism is central to the success of small businesses in Torquay and a rail link from London or Swindon is vital to the long term survival of our and other seaside towns. Being located close to the Torquay Railway Station means that hungry holidaymakers jumping off the train are able to come into the shop and generate business which allows us to support businesses in the local community who supply us with everything we need to make great fish and chips.”

skegnessPoacher Line – Skegness

The Poacher Line, which serves the 55km between Nottingham and Skegness, is just one example of the role the railway plays in boosting tourism across the region. By bringing tourists to Skegness, it generates millions for the local economy and helps support thousands of jobs in businesses that rely on the route.

The line was established in 2005 as a Community Rail Partnership between the rail industry, the local authority and the local community – and there was even a local newspaper competition to choose the name of the rail line!

Since its establishment Network Rail and East Midlands Trains have worked in partnership to support the line’s popularity – investing millions on track renewals and adding additional stops and services to the line as the demand from passengers and tourists has increased. 10 years on and the Poacherline now sees around 1 million passengers a year, with a peak of over 90,000 during the summer months.

Kaye Robinson, Community Rail Partnership Officer at Connect Lincolnshire, said:

“Every year from July we see the seasonal uptake on the Poacher Line – the partnership works hard to make sure visitors keep coming back to the seaside resort of Skegness. We work closely with local businesses and groups to make sure the station stays in tip top condition with Community Action Days with our team of trusted station adopters. We also have the Skegness Silver Band playing throughout the season and the Skegness ambassadors greet the adults and children with the Jolly Fisherman and buckets of information and offers about what Skegness has to offer during their stay. We love seeing the line come bursting to life each summer and working together with stakeholders keeps the line growing from strength to strength every year.”

goods shedKent - Canterbury

A recent report published by HS1 and Visit Kent showed that the introduction of high speed services is adding £70 million a year into the Kent tourism economy.

One area to benefit from this is Canterbury, with tourists heading there to see attractions such as the cathedral and Roman remains.

The Goods Shed, which opened in 2002, is a former old railway building next to Canterbury West station which was converted into a farmer’s market. This has grown over the years and now features 11 local producers which includes a butcher, cheese maker and wine shop. There is also a restaurant which uses the local produce.

Kenny Smyth, fruit and veg stall holder at The Goods Shed, said:

“We have regular customers that come down from London specifically to buy our produce. That wouldn’t be possible without the train to get people here so quickly.”


According to Visit Scotland’s tourism statistics for 2017, there were 166 million tourism trips (domestic and international) generating £11.2 billion in expenditure. That represents a 6% increase in trips and 17% growth in spend.

Of the 166 million trips, 11.7 million were made by UK residents totalling a £3 billion spend. The majority of the trips were for holidays and represented a 9.8% increase on 2016. Around 5 million of those trips will have been made by train.

Millions of people have been travelling to Edinburgh by train for the Fringe Festival. Last year over 2.5 million tickets were sold throughout the event. This year there are 3,548 shows, which will see 56,796 performances in 317 venues.

The Borders Railway is the longest new domestic railway to be built in the UK for over 100 years. The 30 miles of track sees passenger trains running from Edinburgh, through Midlothian and into the Scottish Borders for the first time in almost half a century.

It takes passengers between Tweedbank and Edinburgh in less than an hour and trains run half hourly throughout peak times.

The Borders Railway provides a strong and reliable transport connection between the country’s capital and the south east, with benefits for employment, leisure, tourism and business.


  • Created on .

Copyright © 2020 Rail Delivery Group
About this Website