Opinion

It's Two Years Since The Night Tube Began... Has It Been A Success?

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It's Two Years Since The Night Tube Began... Has It Been A Success?

It started with an arrest at Oxford Street station. At 2am on Sunday 21 August 2016, a 17-year-old-boy was taken into police custody, charged with possession of drugs and a blade. But it was an unhappy anomaly on the long-awaiting opening weekend of London's night tube. Transport police praised users of the new service, relishing a 'great atmosphere'. And anyone fearing scenes of beer-swilling, fag-chuffing wantonness — as witnessed on the Circle line, in response to 2008's alcohol ban — needn't have fretted. Londoners had played nicely with their new toy.

Two years down the line, the night tube has grown up to be big and strong. Every Friday and Saturday, the Central, Northern, Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines let their hair down, for an all-night party. Millions of slow-crawling, three-leg night bus journeys have been rendered redundant. Impulsively-fare-hiking Uber must wince twice-weekly, as they lose out on shed-loads of punters. In December 2017, night czar Amy Lamé, opened the first section of the night Overground. By 2025, the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines should be night-ready too. It's a heart-warming thing to watch the night capillaries of London gradually expand and glow. (It must also be a kick in the teeth to anyone whose days of all-nighters were cashed in for cosy family life, just before the night tube arrived.)   

The numbers are adding up for TfL too: 8.7 million customers used the night tube in 2017/18 compared to 7.8 million in 2016/17. In all, 17 million of us have used the service so far — comfortably surpassing an earlier prediction of 14 million. The service employs 4,000 people, and is predicted to add £1.54bn to London's economy over the next 10 years. It's also perhaps become a much-needed life-line for a fund-deflated TfL.

There will always be a down side. Injuries on the Underground rose by 23% between 2005 and 2007, with tipsy stumbles being fingered as the culprit in many cases. Maybe the upcoming generation of vibrantly sober Londoners will pull these stats down again.

Minor niggles aside, who could really say that the night tube is anything but a triumph? While Boris Johnson's London saw fantasy garden bridges, airless buses and loutish tube piss-up demos, his departure witnessed the birth of something London had been dreaming of for decades. Naturally he'll take credit for it. But what Londoners will remember will be not him, nor Sadiq — but getting home from a party in Stanmore at 4am, without any hassle. "This is London, not Antarctica, so why don't the tubes run all night?" goes our favourite London lyric, by 90s indie band Hefner. Well, it used to be our favourite lyric. These days, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Last Updated 17 August 2018