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London hospitality poised for off-peak tube and rail fare Fridays

Published:  06 March, 2024

From this Friday (8 March), London Underground and rail fares on pay-as-you-go and Oyster will be off-peak all day on Fridays, as part of an initiative to encourage businesses to return to the office five days a week.

The announcement comes just a week after London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed he would freeze TFL fares for another year from March 2024. The incumbent Labour mayor is up for re-election in May, with the cost of living crisis hot on the agenda.

Peak fares apply from 6.30am to 9.30am and from 4pm to 7pm for both TFL and National Rail services in the capital.

According to TFL, midweek Tube usage is at 85% compared to pre-pandemic levels and just 73% on Fridays.

Khan said: “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.”

The three-month trial will run until 31 May and has been welcomed by industry body UKHospitality.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, told Harpers: “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.”

Following a swathe of tube and rail strikes, this latest initiative is a welcome boost for the hospitality sector.  According to UKH, in the 18 months to 31 December 2023, venues lost £4bn in revenue due to strikes.

Responding to the news, Drake & Morgan (D&M), the London-based bar and restaurant group, said the initiative would not be enough on its own to increase footfall in the city.

Graham Hall, director at D&M said: “We, of course, welcome all initiatives to encourage people to travel into London on a Friday and especially to the city, however, sadly I feel that without a joined-up strategy from the biggest employers to encourage more office occupation for collaboration and ultimately conviviality, this will not have an overall benefit to footfall in London. While employees may well use the benefit of cheaper travel on a Friday, this may likely be offset by alternative WFH days elsewhere in the week. I think there needs to be a consolidated approach with encouragement for employers.

On the recent rail strikes, Hall added: “In the long term, any additional money in the back pocket of potential customers is a good thing and hopefully it will encourage people to visit some of the fantastic bars and restaurants across London, but ultimately the main transport benefit to hospitality any mayor or government can provide is stability. We need to see an end to the crippling industrial action taking place across rail, bus and tubes, together with a consistent and reliable service, especially arterial routes such as the Elizabeth and Central lines. Lastly, ensuring the weekend and predominately Saturday is just as accessible as the weekdays is key for hospitality to encourage tourists, locals and all visitors to enjoy everything on offer in this wonderful city.”