Transport for London sees busiest weekend in a year as restrictions ease

25 May 2021, 12:08 | Updated: 25 May 2021, 12:14

Transport for London welcomed millions of passengers on May 22 and 23
Transport for London welcomed millions of passengers on May 22 and 23. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Transport for London (TfL) saw its busiest weekend in over a year as England continued on the roadmap out of lockdown.

The weekend of May 22 and 23 saw tubes, trains and buses much busier than they have been at any other point during the coronavirus pandemic, although still below what they were during the same period in 2019.

On Saturday the tube saw 3.11 million passengers, representing 58 per cent of normal demand and an increase of more than a quarter compared to the previous week.

Buses saw 60 per cent of normal demand, after a total of 5.2 million people boarded them over Saturday and Sunday.

The hire of Santander Cycles was also close to normal, with demand almost three quarters of the same period in 2019.

The figures represent the busiest weekend for public transport since March 14 and 15 2020, just over a week before Britain’s first coronavirus lockdown was announced on March 23.

The number of TfL passengers plunged during the lockdowns, with working from home, limitations on face-to-face socialising and advice not to travel outside your area giving people little reason to board a train, tube or bus.

The reduction has decimated TfL’s finances, with the organisation requiring a £1.6 billion government bailout in May 2020 and an additional £1.8 billion deal in November, which was due to expire in March but was extended for seven weeks to account for the prolonged period of restrictions.

As a result the increase in passenger numbers is likely to be welcome news for many, although the figures are still behind what they were before the pandemic.

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Coronavirus restrictions are relaxing across the country, with people in England now able to meet inside in groups of six or outside in groups of 30.

Bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and indoor sports facilities are just some of the services that have reopened their doors in recent months, giving people more reason to use public transport.

A gradual shift away from working from home is also likely to see an increase in passengers.

The number of commuters is expected to rise over the coming months
The number of commuters is expected to rise over the coming months. Picture: Getty

The next stage of the government's roadmap out of lockdown is due for June 21.

However, Boris Johnson is unlikely to announce whether or not it will go ahead until a week before.

While case numbers remain low, concern over the Indian variant of Covid-19 - which is thought to be more transmissible than the current dominant strain in the UK - may pose a threat to the easing of restrictions.

The prime minister is expected to give more information about the strain and its potential impact in the coming weeks.

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