Tube hit by steep decline in weekend visitors

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Weekend travel on the London Underground has fallen by nearly a third since the July 7 bombings in the capital, the result largely of regular visitors from the UK having second thoughts about coming to the capital for breaks.

As the Tube network on Thursday returned to almost full operation with the Piccadilly line reopening and the Circle line offering a limited service for the first time in four weeks, Transport for London claimed the restored operation and the heavy police presence would restore levels to normal.

The weekday fall is between 5 per cent and 15 per cent compared to the same period last year, Transport for London said.

“The dip has roughly mirrored the amount of the network that has been out of action since July 7 and the fact that some people have chosen not to come in at weekends,” it said.

The weekend decline of 30 per cent year-on-year will add to London businesses’ concerns that visitors are staying away.

Deloitte & Touche, the professional services firm, said hotel occupancy was down 11 per cent in London last week, compared to the same weekend last year, causing operators to raise prices by 3.5 per cent.

West End retailers are co-ordinating a plan with civic leaders to bring shoppers and tourists back as figures this week revealed a fall of 12.6 per cent in shoppers in July compared to the same month last year.

The fall in weekend visitors could cut Tube revenues significantly. While half the revenue on weekdays comes from season tickets, 62 per cent of Tube travel at weekends is done by on-the-day purchases of single and one-day tickets.

Levels of bus passenger use are normal for the time of year, suggesting that rather than use alternative means of travelling in London, regular visitors prefer not to come to the capital at all.

Payment levels of the congestion charge, which applies only during weekdays, are unchanged after a slight rise immediately after July 7. Meanwhile, cycling on the routes measured by TfL is up a quarter.

The July 7 bomb on a deep-level Piccadilly Line train between King’s Cross and Russell Square claimed the lives of 27 people, including the suicide bomber, made forensic examination of the scene difficult and held up restoration of the line until Thursday.

The deep-level tunnel caused difficulties for rescue workers and engineers who struggled in temperatures of up to 60 degrees centigrade to retrieve bodies and repair damaged tracks and communication lines.

The first train to arrive at Russell Square was held on the platform for a minute in memory of those who died.

Commuters, although wary, appeared relieved to be able to get to work more quickly. Pawel Kowalski, 24, a photographer, said: “I am just glad to resume some sort of normalcy.”

“July was supposed to be my busiest month, but without a station, I had no business.”

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