Use of London’s principal public transport services has recovered to more than half of its pre-pandemic levels, with bus ridership at about two-thirds of what it was before Covid and demand for the Underground rising to 50 per cent on weekdays and higher at weekends.
The new figures, compiled and released by Transport for London, show significant increases compared with early spring when bus use was at around 45 per cent of normal over a week-long period and Underground use was at around 20 per cent.
TfL is attributing the increases in part to its own “welcome back” marketing campaign and the parallel “Let’s Do London” campaign of Sadiq Khan and London and Partners, along with a gradual increase in public confidence and the start of the football season with full capacity crowds.
Bus use has picked up primarily in the afternoons and at weekends, which TfL says have recently seen levels as high as 75 per cent of normal. Weekend Tube use has been particularly marked at stations near London’s biggest football clubs. Entries and exits at Oxford Circus station at the heart of the West End are back to 50 per cent of normal.
TfL also says that London Overground ridership has picked up in recent weeks, singling out evening use of the services serving Shoreditch High Street, Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction stations last Thursday and Friday as hitting around 60 per cent of what it was before the pandemic.
TfL Rail services, which are due to become part of the Elizabeth line service when – as TfL is now firmly predicting – it fully opens in the first half of next year, are described as remaining strong at roughly 60 per cent of normal.
The slow but continuing revival of public transport patronage is being welcomed by TfL, whose managing director for customers, communication and technology, Vernon Everitt, said the transport network is “cleaner than ever” thanks to efforts to repel the virus. He added that “beyond the Bank Holiday weekend we’ll be ready to support a further increase in ridership as the holiday season draws to a close and more Londoners return to their workplaces.”
Although continuing, the recovery of public transport use still lags behind that of car use on the high volume “red route” roads for which TfL is responsible, which has recently risen to within five per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The Department for Transport which, along with 10 Downing Street, has substantially taken control of TfL and its finances under Covid, has said a “review” of public transport must take place in September, raising concerns that it intends to impose cuts.
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