By Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter
The number of passengers using the Tube has increased by more than 25 per cent since the beginning of January, according to the latest figures from TfL.
As commuters flock back to offices following the end of working from home guidance, Tube ridership is currently at around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels on weekdays, while bus passenger numbers are at around 75 per cent.
Some outer London boroughs including Hillingdon and Barking & Dagenham are now seeing bus passenger numbers approaching “normal” levels, with ridership at around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The new figures come as TfL scrambles to negotiate a long-term funding deal from the Government amid continued financial uncertainty.
Last week, the Department for Transport (DfT) agreed a two-week extension of the current emergency funding package while negotiations continue over a more long-term deal.
TfL commissioner Andy Byford told the London Assembly transport committee this week that the terms offered by the Government were “unacceptable in terms of the conditions that were attached”, though a DfT spokesperson said it is “false” to suggest any formal funding proposal had been made.
London’s transport network requires more than £1 billion of funding until April next year and faces the prospect of having to make cuts to bus and Tube services, with more than 100 bus routes facing the axe if a deal is not reached.
New Deputy Mayor for Transport Seb Dance said the latest ridership figures “highlight how vital a comprehensive bus network is for London” and that it is “crucial that the Government agree long-term capital funding, so we are able to keep these services running”.
Mr Dance said: “London’s transport network is crucial for a sustainable recovery, and it’s fantastic to see passengers confidently using it as they return to workplaces and to enjoy all the city has to offer. The increased footfall is great news for London’s businesses and hospitality venues which have been hit so hard by the pandemic.
“These figures also highlight how vital a comprehensive bus network is for London, not only for people getting around central London but also for those who don’t live as near to other modes of transport – with some areas in outer London nearly at pre-pandemic levels once again.
“It’s crucial that the Government agree long-term capital funding, so we are able to keep these services running, to aid both London’s recovery and that of the wider country. Throwing that all away now would be a tragedy with far-reaching consequences for Londoners and rest of the UK.”
One year ago, TfL commissioner Andy Byford predicted that public transport ridership in London would reach about 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by March 2022, but TfL bosses now say the Tube passenger numbers will never again return to previous levels as working from home and hybrid working arrangements remain the norm.