Public transportation in London – it’s a rather breathtaking endeavour to keep the sheer amount of people moving around such an old, somewhat complicated city. London’s current street plan (some parts date back to 43AD) was, in fact, reconsidered for a complete overhaul after the great fire of London in 1666. Prominent architect Sir Christopher Wren put forward a plan for the capital to become “full of wide boulevards and grand civic spaces, a city that would rival Paris for Baroque magnificence,” reported the Guardian. Others, such as Richard Newcourt’s “eerily repetitive” design, put forward a more uniform grid plan that will be familiar to those who have travelled in the USA. Instead, London remained (and remains) a spider’s web of confusion (unless you have ‘the knowledge’).
We here at HND Insider think that if you’re interested in studying in London, you should know how the metaphorical sausage is made as well as the future for transport in the city; that’s why today we’ll be discussing what keeps the public transportation wheels spinning in ‘The Old Smoke,’ as well as where all that ticket money goes. Next time you’re waiting for a delayed tube, you might just appreciate the sheer scale of the system involved (and then inevitably become annoyed).
Public transport in London really kicked off with the advent of the tube in 1863 which joined Paddington to Farringdon; this was followed by the arrival of the motorised coach in the early 20th century. Since then, both have grown exponentially to cover almost every area of London. The overground was introduced in 2007 adding connections between some of London’s worst serviced areas for public transport. The river services were, as you might imagine, vital to London in its earlier days; eventually the river services became less vital to the economic health of the city. Why not take a trip down memory lane with a Henry VIII-inspired cruise up the Thames?
A Transport for London report (TfL quarterly performance report: Quarter 1 2017/2018) outlined one of the wider aims of TfL: “80 percent of all journeys to be made on foot, by cycle or using public transport by 2041.” TfL will be increasing access through projects like the Elizabeth Line, Northern Line extensions, Bakerloo Line extensions as well as Crossrail 2. The opening of the Elizabeth Line (proposed for December 2019) is especially welcome news for those living in areas like Reading or Canary Wharf as direct connections with central London is somewhat lacking. The proposed improvements should make the morning commute feel less like the John Candy/Steve Martin film Planes, Trains and Automobiles and more like you’re riding the Millennium Falcon.
Part of the TfL’s strategy to streamline the financial side of the business was announced last year (2016). Steps included: restructuring, cutting agency staff and seeking better value procurement. This strategy appears to have succeeded: “We are successfully reducing our operating costs for the first time in our history,” read a report from TfL. This is allowing TfL to freeze fares for passengers until 2020 – great news for Londoners living with rising living costs as a result of inflation.
The report from Q1 in 2017 showed that although fare profits are lower than Q1 in 2016 (-£6m) due to inflation and lower number of passengers, operation costs have been reduced resulting in a net operating surplus: “The new cost of operations is £21m better [than Q1 2016].” That’s great news for regular users of the tube as improved efficiency can help keep costs down. More improvements, you demand? How about £770m on cycling initiatives? The only problem now is the weather…
Falling Passenger Numbers: A Growing Trend?
The TfL report for Q1 2017/2018 highlighted that passenger numbers, especially on the underground, were down almost 1%. Are less people using the tube? With 938 million journeys taken in Q1 2017, it’s safe to say overall usage is still high. Interestingly, seemingly insignificant events can have huge impacts. Easter fell two-weeks later in 2017 compared with 2016, meaning this busy period of the calendar fell outside of Q1. We can only speculate on the impact the UK’s leaving of the European Union will have on TfL both in terms of workforce and passengers.
Interested in studying in London? Contact HND Insider and find out which higher education institution in London can help you on your professional journey.