Free tube travel on New Year’s Eve has been scrapped for the second consecutive year owing to the “catastrophic impact of the pandemic” on finances, Transport for London (TfL) said.
From 2000-2019, London’s underground network was free to use from 23:45 pm until 4:30 am over the new year, with costs often being covered by sponsors. This year, however, those travelling in the capital will have to pay as they did in 2020.
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, posted this on social media: “I’d love to be able to offer free travel on NYE but the reality is that COVID decimated TfL’s finances…the government needs to step up and provide the additional funding TfL has needed since fares revenue plummeted. Choosing not to would be catastrophic for London.”
I’d love to be able to offer free travel on NYE but the reality is that COVID decimated TfL’s finances.
The Government needs to step up and provide the additional funding TfL has needed since fares revenue plummeted. Choosing not to would be catastrophic for London. https://t.co/T5Nw18qQ0Q
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) December 3, 2021
Paige Wright, a student from Australia who has been living in London for three years, said, “It is a bummer that the travel won’t be free on New Year’s Eve. My friends and I are always out about town that night, and it sucks to have one more thing to think about.”
Her friend Viktor Anderson added: “It could be seen as a good thing too, considering the new variant that’s doing the rounds. Maybe this will keep people inside for a change.”
TfL revenue fell by almost 196% last year, from £4,751 million in 2019/20 to £1,600 million in 2020/21.
A spokesperson for the Mayor told BBC News: “This year, TfL are unable to offer free travel on New Year’s Eve due to the devastating impact the pandemic had on its finances.”
“However, services on the network will be running throughout the night, ensuring that everyone can enjoy what London has to offer and travel around the city easily and safely.”
The scrapping of this plan seems to hint at a larger financial crisis gripping TfL.
According to Khan, 100 bus routes and one tube line may have to be closed for good in the near future. During an interview with BBC 5 Live, he said: “closing a Tube line will make the savings, the cuts, that we need to introduce if we are going to balance our books.”
Last weekend, a strike by the Railway, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT) union added to ongoing debates over pay and conditions for transport workers, as well as on women’s safety in the capital.