Unlike the New York Subway, the Tube does not have double tracks running in each direction on most lines. So the underground has to close down for cleaning and track maintenance work. For the benefit of a relatively small number of people who'd use the Tube in the small hours (apparently only 140,000 would benefit from the Tube running an extra hour at weekends) the cost & disruption of building extra tracks and all of the extra staffing involved would be enormous. I'd be interested to see Opik's ideas of just how much of a premium he thought people would be willing to pay. How much extra would you to pay to use the Tube for 24 hours?
Secondly, it appears that a working party between TfL and transport unions RMT and TSSA has been set up to investigate running the London Underground for 24 hours a day during the 2012 Olympics. This is already leading to a pay battle over staffing. Union leaders are apparently demanding a pay rise of almost six per cent for Olympic year.
Extra services are being mooted for nights of the opening and closing ceremonies to get people home. However, it's thought that later trains will be needed throughout the Games as some events will not finish until near midnight.
A TfL spokesman said: "We are on track to deliver all transport improvements well ahead of the Games and are confident of supporting a fantastic London 2012 Games and keeping London moving.
"We are now drawing up our detailed transport plans for the Games. However, no decisions have yet been taken about the Tube's hours of operation during 2012."
"London's Underground Never Sleeps" Talk
Incidentally if you're interested in seeing how the London Underground works at night, there's a lunchtime talk by Tube Lines' Trevor Bellis at the Museum of London on 14th March 2011 at 1pm. "Your night is my day: London's Underground never sleeps" covers the following: "As the commuters of London leave and the last tubes close their doors for the night, there are bands of people across the city descending unseen to work on the tube lines. What are they doing and what difference does it make to the lives of everyday commuting Londoners?"