TfL has announced that night tube services will return on two lines next month. No return date for the other lines has been given.
The night tube service on the Central and Victoria lines will resume on Saturday 27 November 2021, running through the night on Fridays and Saturdays. It's an apparent U-turn by TfL, which said in April this year that the nocturnal services wouldn't resume until 2022.
Night tube services on all lines have been suspended since the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, due to a lack of demand, and the need to redeploy night tube drivers onto daytime shifts to cover sickness and isolation.
It's no secret that TfL is in serious financial trouble, and putting off reinstating the night tube has been interpreted as an attempt to save money. The delay has not been popular. Late-night businesses have been calling for the night tube to be returned since they themselves reopened in the summer.
More recently, following several high-profile attacks on women, there have been calls for TfL to reinstate the night tube earlier than the 2022 date, to provide Londoners with a safer way to get around at night. At time of writing, 138,000 people have signed a petition to get the night tube going again this winter.
While there's no evidence that this petition had anything to do with TfL's change of heart, "...support[ing] economic recovery and night safety in the capital" were the reasons given by TfL for reinstating night tube services this year.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
The reason why I was so keen to be the first Mayor in London’s history to start the Night Tube in 2016 and to restart it now, after the Covid pause, is because I know how important this is to London’s thriving night-time economy, to London’s recovery and to the confidence and safety of everyone travelling home at night, particularly women and girls. I am determined to make our city as safe as possible for all Londoners.
Businesses that benefit from the night-time economy will no doubt welcome the decision. After Christmas 2020 was effectively cancelled, they'll be hoping that reinstating the night tube in time for Christmas party season will bring customers back and help them recoup some of their lost profits.
But safety campaigners may argue that opening just two night tube lines doesn't go far enough towards offering a secure way to get around London at night, particularly in light of events this year such as the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.
Night tube services on other lines will return "as soon as possible", according to TfL.