The Daily Telegraph

Rail chaos blamed for steep fall in visitors to museums and galleries


THE number of people visiting some of London’s most popular tourist attraction­s fell last year by more than a million, because museum and gallery-goers cannot rely on trains to get them there, an industry leader has warned.

The British Museum, V&A, National Portrait Gallery and Natural History Museum all saw a significan­t drop in visitors in 2016 compared with the previous year, according to figures released today.

Attraction­s across London as a whole saw an overall increase of just 0.1 per cent, while the UK average growth across 241 tourist sites was 7.2 per cent, including a 15.6 per cent rise in Scotland.

Bernard Donoghue, the director of the Associatio­n of Leading Visitor Attraction­s (Alva), which published the figures, said the London results were due partly to Southern Rail’s ongoing industrial dispute, as well as terror fears and a drop in tourists from overseas.

Mr Donoghue said: “It seems sort of petty, but what actually had a real effect was Southern Rail.

“Some research was commission­ed which showed that one of the things which deterred people from the south of England going into London was their concern that they wouldn’t be able to get there and get back on Southern Rail.”

He added that figures would also have been affected by a drop in the total number of tourists visiting the UK in the first part of the year, some venues undergoing refurbishm­ent and others coming off a “blockbuste­r year” in 2015.

“We do know that there were some fears, both on the part of internatio­nal visitors, and domestic families,that there were security concerns about London,” he said.

The Alva figures show the British Museum maintained its position as the most popular tourist attraction despite suffering a 5.9 per cent drop in visitors to 6.4 million.

The Natural History Museum dropped 12 per cent to 4.6 million, while the V&A’s 12 per cent drop left them with 3 million.

Tate Britain’s visitors dropped 15.9 per cent.

A Southern Rail spokesman said the disruption to their service was down to “the RMT union’s wholly unjustifie­d strike action”, and claimed the company was “now running a near-normal service on their strike days, so the impact on the travelling public going forward is now minimal”.

‘What has deterred people is the fear that they wouldn’t be able to get into London and back on Southern’

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