Analysis: Friday fares cut may shed light on London’s post-Covid recovery

Analysis: Friday fares cut may shed light on London’s post-Covid recovery

Sadiq Khan’s promised trial of reduced fares on London Underground and train services on Fridays will begin next week in an attempt to increase the use of public transport and boost the capital’s economy.

Business groups welcomed the move when it was announced in January, having long argued for a more flexible approach to fares to encourage more employees to come in to the office on Fridays rather than working from home, and to help the hospitality and culture sectors recover more strongly from the pandemic.

The change will benefit pay-as-you-go Tube and rail users by charging off-peak fares between the usual peak period hours of 6:30 until 9:30 in the morning and 4:00 until 7:00 in the evening.

It will also enable Londoners with 60+ Oyster cards or Freedom Passes to again be able to travel free before 9am, a right taken from them by the government as a condition of providing Transport for London with emergency funding because the impact of Covid starved the network of passenger income.

The trial, which will last until 31 May and for which Mayor Khan will compensate TfL and the rail companies with £24 million, will mean Tube journeys from Zone 6 to to Zone 1 costing £2 less and those from Zone 4 to Zone 1 90 pence less.

The daily cap on pay-as-you-go fares will be lowered during the off peak period, but “off-peak Fridays” will coincide with a range of discounts at restaurants and cafés and the National Gallery staying open late.

Midweek ridership has inched up to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and at weekends some central London stations have seen a full recovery, but Fridays have lagged behind on 73 per cent.

The Labour Mayor said when announcing the scheme that the trial “will help us to see if it’s an effective way of increasing ridership and giving a welcome boost to business”.

Susan Hall, his Conservative challenger in the unfolding mayoral election campaign, has dismissed it as “magicking up gimmicks” but its backers will hope the coordinated effort by City Hall, TfL, the train companies and business bodies will reveal what measures might work best for all concerned over the longer term.


Major efforts have been launched by central London’s local authorities to revitalise their local economies in response to the increase in working from home, especially on Fridays, and changing consumer habits, which have hurt retailers in the West End.

The City of London Corporation has been running a “destination city” programme in any attempt to lure workers back to the Square Mile and to attract visitors, including by making more of its architectural character and heritage sites.

In January, Westminster Council announced backing for a £90 million upgrade of Oxford Street, which has been blighted by empty retail space and so-called “candy shops”, often selling illegal and counterfeit goods, which trading standards officers are seeking to drive out.

Retailers’ hopes that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would restore VAT-free shopping for tourists, which was axed in 2020 partly on the grounds that use of the scheme “largely centred on London” appear to have faded, according to a report in the Evening Standard.

London’s economy as a whole has been recovering well after being hit hard by the pandemic, but a new report from City Hall economists has found that although the capital’s economic output had surpassed pre-pandemic levels by the third quarter of 2021, growth slowed through 2022 and 2023.

Its assessment of the effects of Brexit concluded: “London’s output was 6.2% (32 billion) lower in 2019 than it would have been had the UK voted to remain in the EU back in 2016”.

Dave Hill is editor and publisher of Support the site and its writers for £5 a month or £50 a year and get things for your money too. Details HERE. Photo: Bond Street Elizabeth line station.

Categories: Analysis

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