Night Tube unlikely to expand in near future

The pandemic is partly to blame for setbacks

By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Piccadilly Circus at night
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Tight finances at Transport for London (TfL) mean the Night Tube is unlikely to be expanded at any point in the near future.

Introduced in 2016, and expanded in 2017-18, the service covers five of the Tube’s 11 lines, as well as the Overground between Highbury & Islington and New Cross Gate.

Mayor Sadiq Khan had outlined proposals to grow the network in his 2018 Transport Strategy, but City Hall sources said that because those plans did not anticipate the Covid pandemic and subsequent funding crisis, they were no longer an accurate depiction of Mr Khan’s priorities.

Asked in a recent interview whether she wanted to see the Night Tube expanded, Mr Khan’s Night Czar, Amy Lamé, said: “It’s not a secret that TfL has had some financial challenges, due to the pandemic and due to the way central Government has been treating TfL. I’d say for the future, nothing is off the table, but I think there are big financial challenges.”

The Night Tube was one of the first services to be suspended at the start of the pandemic, and was only reopened several months after the last lockdown ended – with the Northern and Piccadilly Lines taking until July 2022 to reopen.

A City Hall source said further expansion of the Night Tube would be dependent on the completion of a project known as the Four Lines Modernisation programme – a scheme to transform the track and infrastructure shared by the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

The timeline for the project’s signalling upgrades was scrapped due to the pandemic, though the programme has continued to make progress.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Mayor said: “The Night Tube continues to play a vital role in boosting London’s night-time economy, enabling those working throughout the night to travel to and from work safely and giving Londoners and visitors more ways to enjoy the capital’s world-leading hospitality and entertainment after dark.

“TfL also operates an extensive night bus network along with the Night Overground, to ensure everyone can travel around the capital throughout the night. More than one hundred routes currently run through the night and ridership on buses is regularly at 80 per cent.”

A spokeswoman at the Department for Transport said it was for the Mayor and TfL to ensure the organisation was able to sustain itself financially.

She added that in August 2022, the Government agreed a longer-term funding settlement to provide TfL with just under £1.2 billion of grant funding until the end of March 2024 – or until TfL becomes financially sustainable, if sooner.

She said this was helping to enable almost £3.6 billion worth of critical infrastructure projects, matching the Mayor’s own pre-Covid capital spending plans, and taking Government funding to over £6 billion since the onset of the pandemic.

This story was amended at 18.02 on 4th April because some contributions to this piece were given on background by the mayor’s spokesperson, rather than for attribution. The piece has accordingly been edited to refer to ‘city hall sources’ in some places.

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