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Monday, March 30, 2009

Fewer Tube Commuters - Is it a trend?

Although it might not feel like it, there are fewer passengers on the London Underground. 1 million fewer people travelled on the Tube this January than in the previous year, and if this is a trend, it's likely to squeeze finances & mean that fares might have to rise.

Sardines by ewen and donabel

Tony Travers from the LSE told The Guardian "It would be surprising if revenues did not start to come in under target." TfL's budget requires a 3.5% increase in passenger journeys as well as a 7.4% increase in fare income. None of this bodes well for the funding gap I blogged about a week ago.

Val Shawcross, chair of the London Assembly's transport committee said the January passenger numbers represented a "worrying" trend. She believes that people are "trading down" to cheaper transport like buses.

I think it's early to say whether it is a trend. 81 million passengers is still a lot of passengers and a 1% drop could be seen as a drop in the ocean. But with the current recession and job losses, it makes sense that would be fewer commuters.

A spokesperson for the mayor said "In these uncertain economic times TfL will work ... to maintain the right level of investment and affordable fares. The mayor's commitment to deliver value for money is even more critical now. The operational cost review being undertaken by TfL aims to save money as well as ensuring that services remain unaffected."

I'm not sure how many people are convinced by this. Improvements are being delayed due to arguments about costs, and if fewer people are travelling, revenues will drop and the funding gap will get even bigger. Dave responded to the funding gap post and said "Nothing seems to be changing, despite all the evenings and weekends of their so-called improvement works. I submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to TfL about the (non)improvements at the Jubilee Line. I've copied it here and will publish any response."

Let's see how they answer!


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