A short way of summing up the overall picture of public transport use in London is that it is edging up amid continuing passenger edginess. A longer way is to consider figures presented to a recent meeting of Transport for London’s finance committee and the findings of the latest London TravelWatch omnibus survey.
A report to the finance committee just over a week ago said that Underground journeys had increased to 44 per cent of normal pre-pandemic levels in the week ending 5 June and bus journeys to 61 per cent. Still a long way to go to full recovery then, but the committee heard that at the start of the Covid period more than a year ago we were in 5-15 per cent territory.
The bus figure is up from 53 per cent at the start of the year and the Tube figure up from around 25 per cent. “Total TfL journeys”, which include Elizabeth line, Overground, DLR and Tram services, were put at 53 per cent of normal. Things picked up quite a lot after the easing of Covid restrictions from 12 April.
Within the grand totals there have been interesting variations. Much of the growth in numbers has been driven by the retail and leisure sectors coming back to life, the committee heard. This has been particularly so in the outer travel zones, whereas peak period transport flows in Central London are at only 30 per cent of normal though off-peak and weekend travel as described as “reasonably buoyant”. Also, bus use in some borough is up to 75 per cent of normal.
The London TravelWatch omnibus survey data, collected 25-27 June and relating to journeys made 4-27 June, provides some other important details, especially about passenger anxiety about Covid. A lot of them appear to have actually stopping being passengers, at least for the time being.
Half of those surveyed continue to say they won’t use public transport unless social distancing continues. Nearly 60 per cent say they won’t use public transport unless passengers are required to wear face coverings. And 30 per cent say they will never feel completely comfortable using public transport again.
The omnibus survey also records slightly higher levels of bus and Tube passenger satisfaction by some measures: fellow passengers are seen to be behaving a bit better, with more of them wearing face-coverings; bus passengers have been a bit happier with cleanliness and ventilation; Tube passengers think ventilation is a little better too along with their ability to find keep a safe distance and finding out how busy a service might be. However, Tube satisfaction level overall has fallen since April.
Conclusions? Londoners and others who use the city’s public transport are gradually coming back but a large minority are still going to need a lot of persuading. And the delay in removing nearly all Covid restrictions to 19 July caused TfL to anticipate no extra growth in demand during that four-week period.
Watch the TfL finance committee meeting in full here.
On London is a small but influential website which strives to provide more of the kind of journalism the capital city needs. It depends on financial help from readers and is able to offer them something in return. Please consider becoming a supporter. Details here.