The Inside Track series

Our lively webinar series features exclusive insights, predictions and expertise from leading media experts about London Underground.

July/August update 2021

Our latest episode offers the industry the latest patterns and predictions about the Tube. Hosted by LBC presenter, Lisa Aziz, Mick Ridley, Data Director at Global took us on another deep dive into audience insights – straight from TfL’s powerful, world-class data offering.

As we approached the end of lockdown restrictions on 19 July, we revisited common misconceptions that have surrounded the Tube throughout the pandemic.

‘People naturally live in a bubble and if they’re not using the Tube, they assume nobody else is. The perception of crowdedness is an internal one – it only takes a few people to be removed from your normal carriage for it to feel a lot less busy. But, it’s not really less busy at all.’

As ever, with The Inside Track, we want to ensure the market has the most relevant and up-to-date data and information on the network as well as expert predictions for the future. So here are the four key takeaways from our latest webinar (you can also skip through to watch the video):

1. Confidence to travel on the Tube remains high

Over the past 18 months, TfL has been working tirelessly to ensure all passengers using the network have been safe. From the key workers back in March 2020 all the way through to office workers and socialites today. The Tube has always been the beating heart of our Captial and a reliable source of transport to get people from A to B – nothing has changed since. We asked some passengers what their thoughts were on Tube travel and how (if ever) their current usage plans to change over the next few months.

2. The mix of demographics on the the Tube is the same as pre-pandemic

The Tube is a unique and diverse environment, representative of the vibrant Capital it belongs to. As we head into summer, we’re seeing this diverse audience on the network grow.

Looking at the current audience breakdown:

  • The most affluent groups (‘Executive Wealth’, ‘City Sophisticates’ and ‘Career Climbers’) are travelling at around the same level as they were pre-Covid with 1.5 million entries and exits compared to 740,000 in March 2021. A positive situation for brands looking to target this audience.
  • Similarly, we’re seeing a younger audience (‘Younger Professionals in Smaller Flats’) return to the network at the same proportion, all ready to see friends and socialise in London’s hotspots.

3. The reach of the entire network is close to the norm

As each stage of the government’s roadmap, we’ve seen a steady increase in usage, now in July seeing the network at 50% of normal demand (week commencing 5 July saw 2.6 million passengers; an increase of 1.1 million users in a seven day period!).

Of course, we need to take into account the impact of flexi-working and how this might affect this increase over the coming months. TfL’s travel demand team have surveyed businesses across London to find out what their plans are for future working:

  • 35% are looking at staggered start times – which is great for TfL as it flattens out peaks at 8am and 5pm and instead moving usage throughout the whole day
  • 84% are looking to get staff back by end of September

Interestingly, it looks like flexi-working is here to stay but this doesn’t mean the network will be reaching fewer people.

‘We’ll see people on the network less often, but it will still be the same number of people. If we looked at a run on a route – so that’s 30,000 frames on the network for a week – compared to unique users on Wi-Fi data we’re at about 70% of where we’d expect. As we head into the autumn, we expect that to grow. So yes, the frequency will be down but the reach number will only grow. We expect it to hit 100% as we get to the end of the year.’

4. Looking to the future, we forecast strong and stable Tube usage over the summer, with a surge in usage in September

What we don’t expect to see a surge in numbers straight away in July/August due to the ‘natural seasonality’ of the Tube. With the summer break at schools and holidays booked, we expect a quieter August compared to the surge we saw in April after restrictions eased.

However, when it comes to September we expect to see a big increase as school’s are back and offices ask their workers to come back.

The future of the Tube audience is, although iterative, a positive and stable one.

‘By October we expect entries and exits to be 60% of normal demand; 70% by December and 80% by March 2022.’

Latest update from the Global and Metro team


Previous updates from the team

Patterns and predictions 2020 (episode two)

  • Host
    • Shelagh Fogarty (presenter and journalist, LBC)
  • Panellists
    • Ted Young (Editor, Metro)
    • Sarah Gale (Director of Research and Insight, Global)
    • Shashi Verma (Director of Strategy and CTO, TfL)
  • First broadcast 25 March 2021

Following the much-anticipated announcement of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of another lockdown, this 40-minute panel session will feature the experts and authorities on commuters in London. They draw on new plans to inform you on what’s been happening in London and what we can expect throughout each of the phases as our great Capital recovers.

The Same but Different 2020 (episode one)

Our debut webinar focused on our response to the coronavirus pandemic. Together with Global and Metro, we discussed the facts and realities of clearing the network during the crisis, keeping critical workers on the move safely and our plans to steadily reopen London and support its sustainable recovery.

  • Host
    • Shelagh Fogarty (presenter and journalist, LBC)
  • Panellists
    • Ted Young (Editor, Metro)
    • Ollie Deane (Director of Commercial Outdoor and DAX, Global)
    • Brian Woodhead (Director of Customer Service, TfL)
  • First broadcast 26 November 2020

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