Tube journey numbers fall amid ‘mixed signals’ for London economy

Tube journey numbers fall amid ‘mixed signals’ for London economy

The London Underground has seen the first decline in its annual number of passenger journeys since 2010, one of a varying range of pointers to the health of the capital’s economy published by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Its latest summary of recent data says that the “moving average annual rate of change” in Tube journeys, which measures long-term trends in the service, had shown a fall of 0.2%, described as “the first negative change for almost eight years”.

The same indicator showed that the number of bus passengers too was down, by 0.5%, continuing a recent trend, although “the pace of decline” had lessened compared with two years ago.

More positive indicators suggest continued economic growth, with London private sector firms reporting an increase in output during September and a “solid increase in new work”, although the rate of new business growth was the slowest for over a year.

Figures from the same survey – the purchasing managers’ index – also showed “the slowest rate of job creation” in London since March, although separate Office for National Statistics data showed the rate of annual employment growth in London to have risen more quickly in August than for a year as well as more quickly than in the UK as a whole.

Consumer confidence remained at a positive 3% in London during September, albeit less so than August’s 7%, whereas the figure is minus 9% for the UK.

The authors of the GLA summary, produced by its economics team, described the range of signals from recent figures as “mixed” for the capital. However, Alexander Jan, director of city economics at engineering giant Arup reacted by tweeting that “anyone who thinks Brexit isn’t damaging London and its people is totally deluded”.

Jan added that the figures for the Tube are “the canary in the coal mine” and a “proper leading edge indicator of serious insidious economic damage from Brexit”.

The number of Tube journeys made from late August until mid-September was 96.4 million, down from 98.8 million during the same Transport for London monitoring period last year. The EU referendum took place in June 2016.

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