Mayor must pull out all the stops to revive capital’s centre, say business chiefs

Nicholas Cecil,Jonathan Prynn and Joanna Bourke
·3-min read
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There are signs that

central London is starting to emerge from “ghost-town” emptiness

(Lucy Young/Evening Standard/eyevine)" />

Business chiefs today called on whoever wins the mayoral race to “pull out all the stops” to encourage people back into the city centre.

In its mayoral manifesto, business group London First warned that City Hall’s actions in the coming weeks would be key to “accelerating the capital’s recovery from coronavirus”.

There are signs that central London is starting to emerge from the “ghost-town” emptiness into which it was plunged by three lockdowns.

Latest figures from TfL show big jumps in the number of people using the Tube and buses in the past fortnight.

This week Tube ridership has been up to around 40 per cent of normal, while buses have been running at around 60 to 65 per cent.

Both networks are the busiest they have been since before the second lockdown in November.

There is also evidence that office workers are starting to return, with higher numbers of passengers in the classic “rush hour” periods associated with commuters.

On Monday there were 30,000 more passengers using the network between 8am and 8.59am than the previous Tuesday, the first working day after the Easter break.

Lucy Young
Lucy Young

Across the full day around 600,000 more people are travelling on Tubes than immediately after Easter.

Polls suggests Sadiq Khan is set to win a second term in office on May 6 by a significant margin so pressure will swiftly pile up on him to come up with initiatives to revive the city centre.

London First (LF) stressed the winner of the mayoral battle should prioritise a marketing drive to attract people back to central London, a new London careers service and ensuring short-term funding for TfL is maintained when the current settlement runs out on May 18, so services do not decline as the capital re-opens.

LF’s interim chief executive John Dickie told the Standard: “Making the right decisions in the first 100 days will accelerate the capital’s recovery from coronavirus.

Lucy Young
Lucy Young

“Whoever wins must pull out all the stops to encourage people back into the city centre.”

Other demands from the business group include the appointment of a new freight, servicing and deliveries czar, a new Land Fund to unlock thousands of new homes and finding a long-term solution for Hammersmith Bridge.

Adam Goldin, UK boss for CC Land, which owns The Leadenhall Building, known as The Cheesegrater, expects to see a “gradual return initially that will accelerate over the summer” in the Square Mile. Dan Scanlon, chair of the City Property Association, said: “We look forward to the relaxation of government work from home guidance... so the City can return to its role as vibrant and dynamic business eco-system.” Alistair Elliott, senior partner and group chairman at Knight Frank, added: “It is still disappointing that the Government isn’t offering greater guidance on the occupation of offices ahead of the June 21. Many town and city centres, and their amenity offer, depend on commuters to make them viable.”

Office sharer WeWork said footfall has been steadily increasing across its London portfolio, up 21 per cent so far in April compared with March.

Olly Olsen, co-founder of flexible offices provider The Office Group, said: “Occupancy in our (UK) work spaces has risen by almost 50 per cent over the last four weeks.”

Official figures today reveal retail sales volumes continued to recover last month, jumping 5.4 per cent compared with February.

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