New numbers from TfL show that passenger numbers on London’s trains and buses are recovering from the pandemic, with the recovery stronger at weekends and evenings than during the working day.
With a sizable percentage of people who can work from home still doing so at least some of the time, the recovery in public transport use will be skewed to the evenings and weekends until managers start pulling more people back into the offices.
From a financial perspective though, TfL is likely to be hoping to see a recovery in peak hours travel as well, as it runs a normal peak hours service, with all the costs of providing that, but is getting far less of the premium rate revenue.
The latest figures from TfL reveal that at around 1.8 million daily trips, tube passenger numbers are now regularly around half of what was previously seen prior to the pandemic on weekdays and more than 60% at weekends. TfL says that it is also seeing a bigger growth in tube ridership during the evening peak from those using contactless payments.
Tube ridership most weekends for the last two months have seen numbers exceeding half of the pre-pandemic numbers, and last weekend saw tube ridership reach 60% of pre-pandemic levels, so the growth in leisure travel continues to recover. The recovery is also aided by major events, with TfL noticing that travel to sporting events is seeing near-normal levels again.
For shoppers, Oxford Circus is now regularly seeing around half the numbers using the station during weekdays and on Saturdays as compared to before the pandemic and rising.
For city workers, working from home is clearly reducing as people are returning to the office, with recent weeks showing their most passengers at Bank and Canary Wharf tube stations since the lockdown was lifted.
There has been some debate about whether the Elizabeth line will be full when it opens next year, but ridership on TfL Rail services are already at around 60% of pre-pandemic demand, which is a higher level of recovery than the other rail services.
Ridership on London Overground has also been increasing in recent weeks, with the number of people using Shoreditch High St, Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction after 6pm on Thursday and Friday last week being the busiest this year, hitting around 60% of levels compared to before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, buses are now seeing around 3.5 million journeys made every weekday – with ridership levels of around two-thirds compared to before pandemic following strong growth in afternoon travel across London, and hitting three-quarters of normal use at weekends.
The outlier is the Emirates Air Line — which saw over 50,000 passengers use the Dangleway in the week ending 14th August — which is roughly double the number of people who would use it per week in 2018 and 2019. That’s a pretty strong sign that people are seeking out new experiences after 18-months of lockdowns and staring at the TV.
With many tourists also unable to visit London at the moment, for locals, it’s a very good time to visit the museums and galleries while they’re a bit quieter than normal.
With a warm bank holiday coming up, who knows what post-pandemic travel record will be broken this weekend.