For many years in London, services on the Tube ended at around 1am each day and reopened about 5.30am. This was to allow maintenance jobs to take place and to avoid creating more noise in an already noisy city. Blame for this lies with the Victorians – how dare they fail to foresee over a century into the future, eh?
During the 90s, all kinds of work was done to modernise the network – thus allowing a limited night time service to open in 2014 on Friday and Saturday nights. The service was suspended during the pandemic, notably because it meant there was pretty much nothing open at night. But calls for it to reopen – England lifted almost all its lockdown restrictions nearly three months ago – are getting louder.
There’s just one major problem. Those who talk about its continued closure being a threat to the safety of women are certainly correct – I don’t dispute this. But the reason the Night Tube hasn’t started again in earnest is simple. Money. Or rather, their lack of it.
Allow me to explain. In June 2021, the Government gave Transport for London – who run the Tube – a bailout worth almost £1.1billion. And this wasn’t their first. In May 2020, they received £1.6billion to stop them from going under. The bailouts came with strict conditions – including finding over £300million of spending cuts.
I can’t imagine the Night Tube is cheap to run. Transport for London remains quite heavily unionised by modern standards and they went on strike in the past when the terms being offered for agreeing to the graveyard shifts weren’t to the union’s liking. So bringing it back is going to cost in extra wages, electricity and all the other expenses which come with running train services. Not cheap.
Anyone wanting to bring back London’s Night Tube might therefore be best speaking not to Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, but rather Prime Minister Boris Johnson. And unfortunately, he’s away on holiday. Again…