By Jason Theodorou

Growth in train passenger numbers have returned to levels not seen since the recession in 2008, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). Passenger journeys fell sharply during the recession, with numbers down by up to 3.3% in the third quarter of 2009.

Passenger numbers for the first half of the year saw a 5% increase, according to the trade body. There were 681 million passenger journeys on the railways in the first six months of 2010, which represents a 5.1% rise on the total seen in January to June 2009.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of ATOC, said: 'The strong growth in passenger journeys that we have seen since the turn of the year is hugely encouraging, both for the railway industry and for the broader economy'.

'All sectors of the railways performed well during the first half of the year, but the turnaround in London and the South East is particularly marked'.

ATOC said they expected numbers to double within 20 years.

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