The London Underground saw a 19 per cent fall in passenger journeys last week compared with the same period in 2019 and London’s buses experienced an equivalent 10 per cent reduction, Transport for London has announced.
The figures have coincided with a marked acceleration of smaller falls witnessed in previous weeks as public awareness of coronavirus and the risks of its transmission has grown.
- TfL says the “key drivers” of the reductions appear to be:
- A “significant” fall in visitors to London, detectable on parts of the Tube network connecting London airports with the the centre of the capital.
- Employers asking staff to work from home as part of their efforts to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Continuing “underlying softness” in public transport demand, especially in off-peak periods, due to an already-subdued economy and resulting consumer caution.
Drawing on national government forecasts, TfL is anticipating a possible loss of £500 million in revenue as a result of the fall in demand for public transport services, though it stresses that in an “evolving situation” the financial impact is difficult to predict.
TfL underlines that economic uncertainty has been weakening demand since October, with both bus and Tube revenues “trending at around two per cent below the previous year”. Storms and general bad weather added to the downward pressure during February.
The failure of the main section of Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line to open has been another huge problem for the capital’s transport body, adding to the need for economies and delaying plans to upgrade signalling on the Piccadilly Line. TfL says it has reduced its financial deficit in recent years from £1.5 billion to £200 million but that “the very significant additional impact of Covid-19 will now need to be managed”.
TfL says it “aims to hold a further £600m for other strategic risks, for example sudden reductions in passenger numbers due to pandemic” in addition to its £1.2 billion minimum cash balance. However, chief finance officer Simon Kilonback said that although TfL can manage the revenue impact currently envisaged, “we will be looking to the government to provide appropriate financial support”.
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