he number of daily journeys in London by the end of the decade could be far lower than expected due to long-term changes to travel patterns, it was revealed on Tuesday.
TfL said the number of trips by public or private transport by 2031 could be 14 per cent below its previous prediction, according to a new “hybrid” working model that assumes Londoners work part of the week from home.
TfL’s current bailout runs out on Saturday and it is seeking £500 million to keep running until April and about £1.2 billion for 2022-23.
Professor Tony Travers, from the London School of Economics, said: “The Government brought this situation about for good reason, but working from home became more embedded than anybody would have imagined.
“That raises the question now for the Government: do they want to revise their messaging about working from home to encourage people back to work?
“The Government faces the dismal choice between continuing bailouts of £1bn to £1.5bn a year or radically reducing the scale of public transport in London, which risks kicking off a spiral of decline.”
Last year the so-called “modal share” — those involving walking, cycling or public transport — fell from 63.2 per cent to 58.3 per cent of all journeys.
Tuesday’s report, which includes data up to last month, says this year’s rate “has not changed significantly”.
The total number of daily journeys fell from 27 million in 2019 to 20.3 million last year but increased this year to about 23 million. TfL said the full lifting of restrictions in July “was not the catalyst for the swift return to normal that many expected” because of an infection surge.
By last month, the overall demand for public transport was about 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
On the Tube during the week it was typically 62 per cent and as low as 50 per cent in the morning “peak”. On the buses it was 77 per cent, while road traffic was at 96 per cent of “normal”.
Weekend demand is higher — Saturdays have seen 73 per cent of normal numbers on the Tube and 83 per cent on buses.
National Rail services into London are said to be lagging behind the Overground, with leisure trips recovering but a “notable shortfall of commuter trips”.
The situation in London is said to be comparable with other world cities.
A TfL spokesman said the “hybrid” modelling predicted that demand for travel would reach 96 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by 2026.
This was an increase in demand compared with current levels – meaning that plans to axe bus and Tube services under a “managed decline” scenario would be problematic.
Previously, TfL’s “reference case” modelling had predicted demand exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 2026.
The report also noted the persistence of a “doughnut pattern” — higher levels of travel in outer and inner London, often involving more walking and cycling for local trips, with large-scale shortfalls in central London.
It said walking accounted for more than 60 per cent of all trips made by Londoners during the first quarter of 2021, compared with 35 per cent pre-pandemic.
TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “Our current figures indicate that overall use of London’s public transport network is at around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“We continue to run as many services as possible while seeking to secure the long-term, sustainable government funding needed to go on supporting London’s recovery.”