Millions of people are now regularly using public transport again across London, new figures from Transport for London (TfL) have confirmed – highlighting how vital the transport network is to the capital’s economic recovery.
- New data shows that Tube ridership has increased by more than 25 per cent since early January, with bus ridership up by nearly 10 per cent
- Tube ridership is now around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during weekdays and even higher at weekends – with levels around iconic London stations for business and shopping growing the fastest
- Bus ridership is regularly at around 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with some routes in outer London already reaching close to ‘normal’ levels
- With half term approaching, TfL encourages everyone to explore the city by Tube, bus, rail or even cable car with family and friends
- Customers are reminded that face coverings continue to be a requirement on all TfL services and in stations, unless exempt
- Enhanced cleaning regime with hospital-grade cleaning substances continues to ensure the network is cleaner than ever
New analysis of ridership data by TfL has revealed that, since working from home restrictions were lifted on 19 January 2022, the number of people using the Tube during weekdays has increased by at least 25 per cent.
Ridership is now regularly around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during the week – up from around 45 per cent in early January, with stations close to financial institutions such as Canary Wharf, Mansion House and Aldgate seeing ridership numbers between 8 and 9am already well on track to having double seen while working from home restrictions were in place.
Ridership on the Waterloo and City line is now just under 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels during peak hours, following a full weekday service resuming on 31 January.
At weekends, ridership on the Tube is now at around 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and key tourist stations such as Leicester Square are already seeing ridership levels above 80 per cent on Saturday. The Night Tube is continuing to see increased ridership, with levels on the Victoria and Central line now at around 45 per cent of those seen on those lines prior to the pandemic.
Ridership on the Night Overground, which operates between Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate on Friday and Saturday nights, is also now around 50 per cent of levels seen before the pandemic.
While bus ridership has consistently been more than 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels since April 2021, the recent lifting of restrictions has led to the overall number of journeys increasing by around eight per cent compared to early January. In outer London boroughs, weekday bus ridership is now regularly at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with ridership in Hillingdon and Barking seeing levels at around 80 per cent – especially at weekends.
Some bus routes across London, such as the route 90, which goes between Northolt station and Feltham station via Hayes and Harlington, and the route EL2 which links the new Barking Riverside development to Barking town centre and Dagenham Dock station, are now seeing around 87 per cent of normal levels of ridership – showing the importance of a regular, accessible bus network in outer London to supporting London and the UK’s continued economic revival.
The recent increase further demonstrates that customers are increasingly confident in using public transport and are keen to return to the city and explore all it has to offer. Across London a near-normal service on TfL’s buses, Tubes and TfL-run rail services remains in operation, with the exception of the Northern line where a planned closure between Moorgate and Kennington until mid-May is allowing major work at Bank to increase the station’s capacity, provide step-free access and make journeys quicker and easier. Ridership is expected to continue to improve as domestic and international tourism recovers, and offices and businesses reopen and reoccupy during the week.
Customers are also reminded that face coverings remain mandatory on any TfL service or station as a condition of carriage, unless they are exempt. Those who do not comply could be prevented from entering the network or asked to leave TfL services.
Face coverings protect both the wearer and other customers, and a recent academic study by the University of Leeds showed that people travelling on the London Underground and similar rail systems were at a low risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. The study also showed that wearing a face covering can significantly reduce risk of the virus spreading on public transport.
This increased ridership is hugely important if the capital is to drive the national recovery from the pandemic. London’s net contribution to the Treasury was £36 billion in the year before the pandemic, and TfL contracts contribute around £7bn to the UK economy while supporting 43,000 jobs around the country, with 55p of every pound spent on London Underground by TfL going outside of London.
Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “London’s transport network is crucial for a sustainable recovery, and it’s fantastic to see passengers confidently using it as they return to workplaces and to enjoy all the city has to offer. The increased footfall is great news for London’s businesses and hospitality venues which have been hit so hard by the pandemic.
“These figures also highlight how vital a comprehensive bus network is for London, not only for people getting around central London but also for those who don’t live as near to other modes of transport – with some areas in outer London nearly at pre-pandemic levels once again. It’s crucial that the Government agree long-term capital funding, so we are able to keep these services running, to aid both London’s recovery and that of the wider country. Throwing that all away now would be a tragedy with far-reaching consequences for Londoners and rest of the UK.”
Andy Lord, Chief Operating Officer for Transport for London, said: “It’s great to see that ridership on our services is continuing to grow in recent weeks as restrictions about working from home have been lifted. Weekday Tube ridership is now around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and at weekends is even higher – reaching three quarters of normal demand at certain times. Bus ridership is also regularly at around 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, showing how vital the extensive network is to help people commute, get to school or visit friends and family.
“Public transport is key to the capital’s recovery from the pandemic, and we continue to run a near-normal service across our Tubes, buses and trains. These latest figures indicate that millions of Londoners are now regularly using public transport, showing continued confidence that services are safe, clean and reliable.”
Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, said: “These new figures from TfL show that a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is well under way in the capital and that confidence is coming back among City workers and visitors. They’re reflected by the queues I’m finding when out for coffee and the reactivated offices I see from my window.
“This return of commuters will be welcome news for the many City businesses that rely on footfall for trade and for employers who have dedicated a lot of resource to deliver Covid-secure workplaces. We look forward to even more workers and visitors coming back to enjoy the world-class shopping, cultural and hospitality that the Square Mile has to offer, and will be playing our part to welcome them.”
Ros Morgan, Chief Executive, Heart of London Business Alliance, said: “We are heartened to see the pick-up in Tube journeys particularly at Leicester Square and other key tourist stations since the removal of working from home guidance and restrictions. The welcome return of workers not only boosts the creativity, collaboration and productivity that comes from an office environment but is also essential for ensuring the recovery of businesses and cultural venues that make up the capital’s unique ecosystem.
“Central London was one of the areas worst hit by the pandemic, due to its low proportion of residents and its high dependence on tourism and commuters to provide footfall. The capital’s retail and hospitality businesses are dependent on people coming back to the office to make up for the 47 weeks of sales lost between March 2020 and September 2021. We hope that residents, commuters and visitors will continue to do their part by visiting and enjoying the capital’s world-class hospitality and retail offering during this critical post-Covid recovery phase.”
With half term approaching, TfL is encouraging everyone to explore London and take in all the sights, attractions and activities available across the city. Using pay as you go with Contactless or Oyster allows customers to travel flexibly on the bus, Tube or rail services across London by simply touching in and out and only paying for the journeys they make, reducing the need to queue or buy tickets in the station.
“Children under 11 travel free on buses and trams and up to four under 11s travel free with an adult travel on Tube, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail services. The Emirates Air Line, London’s only cable car, is open until 21:00 weekdays and until 23:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, providing unique views of the Thames and east London. Passengers also get to travel in their own cabin – helping to make the experience more special for families or groups of friends.
‘Spring Into London’, a free programme of fantastic outdoor art and performance events, will also take place across half term, encouraging Londoners and visitors to rediscover the capital’s world-class culture. The programme, which is the latest instalment of the Mayor’s Let’s Do London campaign, includes immersive light installations by globally-acclaimed artists, pop-up performances and discounted theatre tickets and meal deals.
TfL’s enhanced cleaning regime also continues to ensure the transport network is cleaner than ever. Trains, trams, buses and stations are cleaned with hospital-grade cleaning substances that kill viruses and bacteria on contact and provide ongoing protection.
Independent testing by Imperial College London has been carried out monthly since September 2020, taking swabs of touch points in stations, buses and air samples in ticket halls and up to the last verified testing round in January 2022 has found no traces of coronavirus on the public transport network.