Skip to main content

‘Let’s do Fridays!’ – getting rid of the pre-weekend no shows, or all just for show?

London underground
By Emma Goodwin
12 March 2024
london underground
public transport

Last Friday marked the start of one of TfL’s latest initiatives: off-peak tube (and some rail) fares on Fridays. In its latest bid to entice more people back into the capital on the last day of the working week, the trial – which runs until late May – is aiming to tear people away from the temptation of a work-from-home Friday and back into the office.

This isn’t just about TfL’s own income though, it’s also about boosting the hospitality industry in the capital. TfL statistics show midweek ridership on the Tube is at 86% of pre-pandemic levels, but the figure for Fridays is just 78% – something many see as a contributing factor for London’s yet-to-fully-recover hospitality sector. The hope is that with more workers going into the office on Fridays, there’ll be more people heading out and spending on things like lunches, after-work drinks and evening entertainment.

But is it all show? A clever gimmick? A well-timed political play? Or a genuine campaign to help get London back to its pre-Covid place?

Whilst we all like a bargain and the idea of saving a few pennies – especially during these tougher times – when you dig into it, the saving is, quite literally, a few pennies. Applicable only to pay-as-you-go fares, those travelling in from Zone 6 will save £2 on each journey, decreasing in line with Zones to just 10p for inter-Zone 1 travel.

For reference, if I were to travel from the SEC Newgate office in Farringdon to Soho for a Friday post-work bevvy, the 10p I’d save on my tube journey equates to 1.7% the cost of the average London pint. [Side note: off-peak tube travel really isn’t as a good as I thought it was…].

Is (up to) £2 off your tube fare really a sufficient incentive to entice people away from their work-from-home Fridays? I’d argue probably not – but perhaps it’s less about the saving itself and people reallocating that money elsewhere (e.g., a post-work pint), and more about proximity. The mentality that if you’re in central London anyway, you might as well stay in central London for your evening plans.

A more dynamic approach to fare pricing can only be a good thing in supporting both commuters and the capital, and we should commend the creative and flexible approach in finding ways to help boost London’s economic recovery – especially when coupled with a host of Friday-specific hospitality, business and entertainment deals also on offer.

Certainly, lots of businesses across the capital have welcomed the plans with open arms, but whether it is an effective enough campaign to bring more people back into the capital remains to be seen (to be fair, it has only been one Friday so far!). Watch this space…