London Underground has confirmed that the Night Tube will resume service from Saturday 27th November, but only on the Central and Victoria lines initially.
These two lines were chosen to resume the service as they were the busiest lines on the overnight service when it was provided before the pandemic lockdown. TfL said that the remaining Night Tube lines, the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines and the London Overground will return as soon as possible after that.
The Night Tube was suspended at the start of the first lockdown in part due to obvious lack of demand, but also as it enabled TfL to concentrate drivers on the daytime service at a time when staff were sometimes having to isolate due to positive covid test results.
The tube continues to operate between approximately 5:30am and 00:30am through central London from Monday to Saturday, and TfL has started running some trains earlier on Sunday mornings to help customers travel at those times.
Although much of the focus on the resumption of the Night Tube is on London’s nightlife, a substantial percentage of people who travel at night do so for necessity or work reasons, such as early departures to get to airports for flights, or cleaners and warehouse staff getting to their overnight shifts. These people have also suffered from the loss of the Night Tube with longer and slower journeys in the early hours getting to and from work.
Although ridership on the London Underground during the week is still significantly down on pre-pandemic numbers, at weekends it has already recovered to close to 80% of pre-pandemic levels, making the resumption of the Night Tube a timely event. Overall TfL figures indicate that the use of London’s public transport network is at around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The resumption of the Night Tube also comes as TfL is still seeking to secure the long-term government funding needed to go on supporting London’s recovery.
There is a possible fly in the ointment about the news, and that is that the RMT union is opposed to plans to migrate the dedicated Night Tube train drivers from part-time work to being full-time drivers and share the rota for the night tube shifts among all drivers. The RMT is negotiating with TfL at ACAS about the shift changes, and the main sticking point seems to be now that while there seems to be agreement that no existing full-time driver would be compelled to work night shifts, the changes would mean more weekend working — typically one extra weekend per year.
Staff training still needs to take place on the other Night Tube lines – the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines – so Night Tube services on those lines can return as soon as possible. The return of these lines also has to be planned around complex operational and engineering closures.