TfL London Underground data gives first look at whether cheaper Friday travel worked

Sadiq Khan standing with Tube station staff
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

Transport for London (TfL) ridership data has suggested that there was a small change in the number of journeys on the Underground during Sadiq Khan's off-peak Fridays trial. The scheme, whereby fares remained cheaper during the last working day of the week, was launched on March 8.

It lasted until May 31 and cost £24 million. Now, it is as you were during the last working day of the week, as prices have been reverted back to normal.

But we have to wait a while until we know what impact the scheme had on people’s travel habits. This is because public organisations are not allowed to release any important data that might influence how people vote at the General Election on July 4.

READ MORE: TfL ticket inspector 'pushed over and repeatedly kicked' by passenger at London Underground station

A Tube passenger passes through ticket barrier using smart watch
Passengers enjoyed cheaper prices on Fridays between March 8 and May 31 -Credit:Adam Toms/MyLondon

This is called the pre-election period, or purdah. Even if a national poll were not happening, it has not been clear as to when TfL would have published the data. MyLondon understands that officials are ‘continuing to analyse’ the numbers.

Documents for the next meeting of TfL's board, scheduled for June 12, state: "After the end of the trial, we will use a combination of public transport ridership data, research into customer perceptions, and feedback from the business community to evaluate the cumulative impact of implementing off peak fares on Friday. This will then be used to inform future decision-making or other potential innovative approaches to fares across London."

Publicly available ridership data

But, what we can have a peek at is the authority’s public ridership data, which it publishes regularly.

This shows us that, in March, 16,294,000 journeys were made on the Tube on Fridays. In April, this decreased to 13,313,000.

In May, though, the number went up again, slightly higher than March, to 16,914,000. This was the highest monthly figure so far in 2024.

In December, as Londoners were gripped by seasonal festivities, the number was 17,697,000.

TfL has pointed out that ridership is ‘always changeable’ around bank holidays, the Easter period and school holidays in April and May. These figures also only include the London Underground.

People also enjoyed off-peak prices on the Overground, DLR and Elizabeth line on Fridays during the trial.

A spokesperson for TfL said: "We continue to analyse the impact of our trial of off-peak pay as you go fares on Tube and rail services on a Friday, which ended on 31 May 2024. This analysis will take into account a number of aspects including assessing changes to both morning peak ridership and overall daily ridership, as well as the impact to businesses across London.”

Officials monitored 'busy commuter stations'

In January, officials said they would monitor traffic at 'busy commuting stations' in Zone 1 and Zone 2. These include King's Cross St. Pancras, Tottenham Court Road, Waterloo and Liverpool Street.

Mr Khan told MyLondon on January 29: "What we'll be monitoring is growth, passenger numbers. We'll be monitoring pan-London activity. We'll be particularly monitoring those busy commuting stations in Zone 1 and Zone 2. We're also going to see if there are any unintended consequences on other days of the week."

Commuters outside Liverpool Street underground station
TfL monitored busy commuter stations like Liverpool Street during the trial -Credit:Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"For example, if some people use public transport less on other days of the week, and we see a reduction. That's obviously a source of concern, because we want more people coming in for the entire week, not just those four days, not just the weekend. So we're going to keep an eye on all those things."

Asked if he had a percentage boost to ridership in mind, the mayor said: "I think that's not realistic to expect every day to be as high as it is at the weekend. We've seen during Monday to Thursday, big increases. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, better than Monday. Every week, Monday gets better."

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