Weekend Tube and Bus Travel Hits Pre-pandemic Levels

Big events and a rise in tourist numbers boost passenger numbers

Tourists are returning to the West End. Picture: BBC

August 10, 2023

Transport bosses say London’s summer of blockbuster events is helping Tube, bus and train ridership figures to close the gap with pre-pandemic passenger numbers.

The latest stats show that stations in the city centre are hitting pre-pandemic levels at weekends, if not exceeding them, with cultural events and London’s tourism surge helping to drive the return.

Tube ridership figures on Saturdays have surpassed the levels seen on their equivalent 2019 dates on several occasions this year, including 29 April (104 per cent), 27 May (103 per cent) and 17 June (104 per cent), Transport for London (TfL) revealed.

The buoyant numbers come as TfL launches a new campaign “highlighting the value and benefits public transport offers people with all travel needs and budgets”, the organisation said.

Wembley Park station saw its biggest ever number of Saturday entries and exits on 17 June, as fans flocked to see Harry Styles perform the last London night of his ‘Love on Tour’ concert at Wembley Stadium.

Some 134,000 entries and exits were made at the Jubilee line station that day, compared with around 50,000 on a typical Saturday without an event.

A similarly impressive 120,000 entries and exits were made at the station on 8 July, when Blur performed their first headline show since 2015.

The London Pride parade on 1 July meanwhile saw 6.9 million entries and exits on the Tube – making it the busiest Saturday on the network since December 2019.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said, “London is roaring back this summer, with millions of tourists from around the globe and visitors from nearer afield joining Londoners using public transport to enjoy our incredible events and go to our world-renowned theatres, venues, galleries and museums.

“There is so much still to look forward to with a wide array of festivals, events, exhibitions and performances showing why London is the greatest city in the world.”

London’s Transport Commissioner, Andy Lord, said, “It is wonderful to see the city return to the same vibrancy it had before the pandemic.

“Public transport continues to be a vital part of London’s economic recovery, and just as there are events and festivals to suit all interests, there’s also a public transport option to suit your needs, whether it’s speed, cost or convenience that’s important to you.”

Currently, between three to four million Tube journeys are being made every day across the TfL network, which is around 85 per cent of levels seen before the pandemic.

Around five million bus journeys are meanwhile being made on weekdays – around 80-85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

TfL hopes that its new publicity campaign will boost numbers further, with posters, videos and radio content designed to highlight features like daily capping, off-peak times and the bus and tram Hopper fare.

At the same time, around two million more tourists are expected in the city this year, compared with last.

Cultural events are meanwhile continuing to encourage journeys this summer, with more than one million people attending live music events across a week in July, and cinemas enjoying their busiest weekend for ticket sales in four years, thanks to the simultaneous release of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

TfL said that the first week of the Wimbledon Championships helped the District line’s Southfields station see over 50,000 entries and exits, almost three times its usual number, for three days running during the first week of the tournament.

Battersea Power Station’s Northern line stop saw its busiest day of the year on 5 July, as the power station’s iconic chimneys were lit up in blue to mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS, with nearly 35,000 entries and exits at the station.

It comes as the station hits 10m entries and exits since the opening of the Northern line extension in September 2021.

Noah Vickers - Local Democracy Reporter

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