Friday off-peak fares trial to try to bring commuters back into London

Sadiq Khan launches experiment in hope of raising Friday demand back to pre-pandemic level

Sadiq Khan on the Elizabeth Line (credit GLA)
Sadiq Khan on the Elizabeth Line (credit GLA)

Commuting to work in London on Fridays will be made cheaper as part of a three-month trial from Transport for London (TfL).

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked TfL to run to trial making all tube and rail fares off-peak on Fridays.

Off-peak fares are currently only available at weekends and at set times outside the morning and evening rush hours on weekdays. But with Friday passenger levels failing to return to their pre-pandemic peak, Khan wants to experiment with incentivised commuter travel at the end of the working week.

The trial is expected to begin in March and last for three months. It will be keenly watched by other global cities struggling to bounce back after the pandemic.

The news comes just a week after the mayor announced that he is freezing TfL fares for another year from March to “ease the cost-of-living for millions of Londoners”. He hopes the Friday off-peak policy could “play a huge role in catalysing this behavioural shift”.

Midweek ridership on the tube is now up to 85% of pre-pandemic levels, with weekend ridership around 100%, but Fridays are consistently lower at around 73%.

Khan said: “London is the greatest city in the world. From the bustling office districts to its rich offering of bars, restaurants, galleries and theatres, I want everyone to be able to make the most all week of living or working in London.

“I’m doing all I can to support Londoners with the cost-of-living crisis and to support London’s economic recovery. This includes freezing TfL fares for another year to make transport more affordable for millions of Londoners and to encourage more people to use our transport network.

“But I want to do even more. London has really bounced back since the pandemic, but the lack of commuters returning on Fridays is a clear exception – with a major knock-on effect on our shops, cafes and cultural venues. That’s why I’ve asked TfL to trial off-peak fares on Fridays, and I encourage Londoners to get involved.

“A trial will help us to see if it’s an effective way of increasing ridership and giving a welcome boost to businesses as we continue to build a better, fairer, more prosperous London for everyone.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, is one of those supporting the move. She said: “There’s no doubt that Fridays have suffered as a result of changes to working patterns since the pandemic and hospitality businesses have felt that loss of commuter trade.

“Responding to these challenges with innovative trials like off-peak Fridays is exactly the type of flexible approach needed to boost journey numbers and stimulate footfall in our venues. I hope we’ll see positive results from the trial, for hospitality businesses, commuters and the wider economy.”

Muniya Barua, deputy CEO at BusinessLDN, added: “Experimenting with Friday fares is an innovative step that could help encourage some hybrid workers back into the capital, in turn supporting businesses that rely on footfall.

“It will be interesting to see if this will be enough to change habits that have become engrained since the pandemic for the many Londoners who can choose to work from home.”

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