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London joins the 24-hour a day metro club... 2 days a week.

Posted on Oct 8, 2014

TFL_Whoosh“Running trains all through the night was once thought impossible, but ... we stand ready to take the tube to the next level.” – Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

150 years ago, London unveiled the world’s first underground railway system. 150 years on, London is finally set to introduce 24-hour services, which are set to make the last train home a thing of the past. Following in the footsteps of major European cities, as well as New York, the ‘Night Tube’ to commence 24- hour weekend services on selected lines from the 12th September 2015. SmartRail Contributor and London commuter  Abigail Francis looks into how London is readying itself for the ‘Night Tube’.

The Transport for London (TfL) managed ‘Night Tube’ is to launch just days before the opening of Rugby World Cup in England, which is set to attract an estimated 400,000 visitors to the city. The new services will run 6 trains per hour across 5 main lines. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, following his pledge to introduce Night services in 2013, expressed how vital the ‘Night Tube’ is for a growing metropolitan city; “Running trains all through the night was once thought impossible, but with the huge investment we’ve put in and upgrades that have been delivered we stand ready to take the tube to the next level. The evolution of the night tube will without doubt make London an even better place to live, work, visit and invest.” See map below for the full Night Tube network, click it for a full scale image.

TfL_Night_TrainIn research conducted by TfL, the introduction of the services are reported to cut weekend journeys for riders by over 20 minutes and give a considerable £360 million boost to London’s night-time economy. Bars, clubs, restaurants and main attractions are to greatly benefit from the weekend services, providing businesses with the opportunity of longer operating hours. Masses of people attending entertainment venues, including the 02 Academy and London Stadiums, will no longer have to experience the imminent rush to tube stations when leaving events.

As well as supporting late night businesses, the Night Tube is believed to benefit commuters working during the night, who are often left relying upon night buses to travel outside of the city. Around 265 staff jobs operating the services will also be supported by the changes.

Mike Brown, Director of London Underground and CBTC World Congress keynote speaker, similarly showed positivity for the planned services; “Already over half a million Londoners use the Tube after 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and the introduction of the Night Tube, which will cut journey times and open up new possibilities across the night time economy, is a historic step in our modernisation of the underground.”

(See also: How London commuters awoke to a contactless way to pay )

Despite generating a positive response from commuters and tourists alike, the plans have faced opposition. Rail unions have expressed concern over the logistics of the future plans, as Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union explains; “With Boris still wanting to axe 900 jobs and close all ticket offices, we want to ensure that the new service is properly staffed to ensure safe and secure travel for all passengers and that weekend maintenance work is not postponed to disrupt weekday services."

Mike Cash, general secretary of RMT Union, has branded the plans as no more than a ‘diversion’ from the Majors plans for job cuts and closures, stating that the Night Tube services ‘need more tube staff not less’ to avoid disaster.

(See also:'Next stop: [Your Company’s Name] Station.' The gradual rise of metro and rail naming rights sales. )

With the plans set in motion, London is ready to join a select few cities that have already embraced 24-hour metro services. Opened in 2002, Copenhagen Metro uses driverless trains to run weekend 24-hour services, providing around the clock transport for riders and visitors. Other cities that have embraced 24-hour services include, Berlin U-Bahn, Stockholm and Vienna metros. Most famously, the New York Subway operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year, across all lines. Although operating a limited service through the night, the subway in New York City was originally constructed to never shut down with the 24/7 aspect being in place since 1904.

The ‘Night Tube’ has certainly become a feature almost expected for metropolitan capital cities around the world, and there is no doubt that businesses, commuters and tourists will greatly benefit from the freedom to travel around the city at all hours. However, with future cuts eminent, and staff safety during operating hours being brought into question, we will have to wait until 2015 to see the true impact the ‘Night Tube’ has on London after dark.

Want more? A full independent report into the economic benefits of introducing the Night Tube service is available on the TfL website:   

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Topics: Passenger Information Systems

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Abigail Francis


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