The London Underground is the world’s oldest metro system, a point of pride for many Londoners. It’s a symbol of the city always being on the cutting edge of global technology.
However, being first isn’t always the best either. The Underground has long been plagued by issues that subsequent metro systems have figured out. One really basic innovation was multiple tracks. For example, many New York City Subway lines have four tracks across a station, but most Underground stations are only two, one in each direction.
This has long hampered the Underground. With multiple tracks, New York and other cities are able to run 24-hour service because you can run trains along two tracks while the other two are being cleaned. The Underground has to shut down nightly, closing at midnight, in order to clean and maintain the tracks.
But no longer. With recent improvement, the Underground was able to introduce the Night Tube. Starting in late 2016, on Friday and Saturday nights five lines of the Underground are operating a 24-hour service with more service expected in the near future.
Of course, this would seem to be a boon to nighttime revelers, but the actual usage has been mixed. While the demand has been pent up in London for a while, and opening weekend ridership was around 150,000, it’s not clear yet if Londoners are actually changing their behavior because of the Night Tube’s availability.
“As a busy club across the weekend I’m not sure we’ve seen any direct changes,” says a spokesperson from Egg London, a popular Kings Cross warehouse venue.
However, the current Night Tube configuration may not exactly fit what Londoners hope to achieve. Increased service is likely further off, but is ultimately what solves the pent up demand that residents have to make London more of a 24-hour city.
Egg London expanded a bit on the role Night Tube could play in London’s nightlife reputation, “We welcome the Night Tube and think it’s great to have 24-hour travel in a cosmopolitan city like London. I believe it does support the city’s buzzing nightlife and arts as well as the economy.”
There might be another constituency the Night Tube is already serving well though. Those bleary eyed people who ride the trains with revelers don’t call it the late train. To them it’s the early train.
Mark Morris, a fishmonger at Canary Wharf, noticed immediately upon the opening of the Jubilee Line Night Tube, a new set of customers started arriving.
“I’m not saying it’s going to revolutionize the market,” says Morris. “But just one extra customer every morning makes a difference to us.”
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