After nearly a year of delays and an acrimonious industrial dispute, London finally became a 24-hour city with the introduction of an all-night tube service on Friday August 19th.
While all-night tube services are still a rarity, London joins a growing group of cities across the world that have already succumbed including New York, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, Bilbao, Sydney and Melbourne. London may hold the title of world’s oldest underground railway network but, New York holds the record for offering a 24-hour service since 1904.
Initially operating on only two of the 11 lines – Central and Victoria – the 24-hour service will run throughout Friday and Saturday nights. The Northern, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines are due to follow in the autumn, and there are supposed plans to expand the service to parts of the Metropolitan, Circle, District and Hammersmith and City lines in the future, London Overground in 2017, and the Docklands Light Railway by 2021. The Bakerloo and Waterloo and City lines will remain day only!
An estimated 50,000 people rode the inaugural night train, with Oxford Circus one of the busiest stations with 6,500 people entering and 4,250 people exiting at Stratford.
The 24-hour Tube will provide a much required boost to the capital’s night-time economy. Transport for London (TfL) have estimated that 1,965 new jobs will be created and the economic consultancy Volterra forecast that the night tube will generate more than enough in extra fares to cover running costs, with figures of £12 million a year being touted, or an additional £360m over 30 years. London First, a group representing London businesses, estimates it could add £77 million a year to the capital’s £17 billion night-time economy by 2029.
There will be a knock-on effect to other sectors too, as they seek to both sieze the competitive advantage and drive business. Tesco has already started trialling 24-hour opening hours in seven of its stores located close to stations on both the Central and Victoria lines, celebrating the opening by handing out free bottles of water and orange juice outside their stores between 3am and 7am!
Costa Coffee is also trialling 24-hour trading at its London Liverpool Street location, while McDonald’s reminded its Twitter followers that it ran ten 24-hour restaurants close to several stations.
Who does it benefit? For many, it’s long overdue. Both late night revellers and the estimated 700,000 night-time workers working in hospitality, shift workers, doctors and nurses will benefit. No more leaving the party or event venues early, running to catch the last train or having to pay a fortune for a legal or illegal taxi! No more spending cold hours waiting for a night bus that takes forever to get to its destination that’s only nearly home! No more spending 90 minutes instead of 25 on your commute after a hard night’s graft! The benefits are not only economic but, cultural, convenience and safety ones too!
What do businesses think? London Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Colin Stanbridge said the service is ‘vital to underpinning London’s 24-hour economy,’ and Alan Miller, Night Time Industries Association chairman, claimed that tubes running throughout the weekend would be a ‘fantastic contribution towards London’.
But what do passengers think? Kevin Chauphar told The Guardian that ‘It increases safety massively. You are not just loitering around waiting for a night bus.’ Ibbi sums it up for all of us by saying that the night tube means ‘getting to do more of London. It’s exactly what London is about, and exactly what London needs.’