Transport for London (TfL) will not put on free underground services on New Year’s Eve this year, blaming the “catastrophic” impact of the Covid-19 impact on its finances.
TfL lost much of its revenue in the Covid-19 impact because of the loss of fare income, and has had to rely on short-term funding agreements with the government.
Last month London mayor Sadiq Khan warned that unless the Department for Transport could help fill a £1.7b hole in its budget, Tube and bus services would be slashed, as well as investment in London’s sprawling network of transport infrastructure.
Free travel has been a hallmark of Londoners’ New Year’s Eve celebrations since 2000, with ticket gates normally left open overnight between 11.45pm and 4.30am.
But paid-f0r services will still be running through the night. This is the second year in a row that New Year’s Eve Tube has not been free, but in 2020 there were Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish called Khan “a grinch” because of the cut.
“His decision to scrap the traditional free Night Tube on New Year’s Eve and Day is yet another hammer blow to our city’s recovery.”
A spokesman for Khan said: “This year, TfL are unable to offer free travel on New Year’s Eve due to the devastating impact the pandemic had on its finances.
“However, services on the network will be running throughout the night, ensuring that everyone can enjoy what London has to offer and travel around the city easily and safely.”
The dent on TfL’s finances is severe. As well as threatening cuts to nearly ten per cent of Tube services and slashing 100 bus routes in a “managed decline” scenario, the transport agency has warned that it could have to close the Rotherhithe Tunnel. The Bakerloo Line Extension from Elephant and Castle along the Old Kent Road has also been put off indefinitely.
It comes amid another headache for TfL, as the RMT union continues to plan strikes after the industrial action last month that affected several Tube lines, including the Jubilee and Northern lines. The next strike on the Jubilee and Northern lines is planned for Saturday, December 18. Other strikes will affect the Central and Victoria lines in the meantime.
The strike is taking place because of a dispute between RMT and TfL over Night Tube scheduling.