There have been signs of a growing return to office working in London, with 8% more journeys recorded on the London underground network compared with a week ago.
The increase came after the government ended work-from-home guidance immediately on Wednesday afternoon, with Sajid Javid claiming the Omicron coronavirus variant was “in retreat”, despite the number of new infections running at more than 100,000 a day.
Transport for London said 1.09m entry and exit “taps” with contactless cards or Oyster were recorded up to 10am on Thursday on the tube – about 80,000 more than last Thursday’s morning peak. Bus journeys were up 3% week on week, with 1.19m boarding taps recorded this morning.
There had already been signs of growing weekday journeys in London throughout the month, with total tube journeys throughout Wednesday up 4% week-on-week – despite the partial closure of the Bank branch of the Northern Line, a vital commuter line serving the City. A four-month closure to complete the upgrade of Bank underground station started on Sunday.
Bus journeys were likewise up 2% on Wednesday.
No data was yet available from railways, although anecdotally operators said they had not seen significant signs of an uplift.
Trains in particular were hit hard by the reimposition of work-from-home guidance in December, in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.
Journey numbers had reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels in November, but fell to below 40% in January, with services affected by staff absences as well as people working from home. Latest provisional numbers showed just over 50% of passengers on trains overall, at the start of this week.
The ending of work-from-home guidance will be followed next week by the lifting of rules making face masks mandatory on public transport from next Thursday.
The change was welcomed by the Rail Delivery Group, with some in the industry saying the Covid regulations deterred passengers by implying trains were less safe than other environments.
Nevertheless, user groups said removing masks would make many passengers feel less safe. Transport for London will continue to make face coverings a condition of carriage.