LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) – More people are returning to work in London, data showed on Friday, an encouraging sign for Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has urged Britons to start commuting again to help the economy recover from its coronavirus crash.
Data from Transport for London, the public transport authority in the capital which has been largely empty of commuters since the lockdown, showed an increase in the number of people using the Underground metro system and buses, albeit from very low levels.
The number of payment card taps on readers on the Underground was 21% higher on Friday morning than a week earlier and trips on buses were up 30%, a TfL spokesman said.
The increases in part reflected the end of the summer holidays in August but were sharper than those recorded in recent days.
However, usage of London’s public transport remains only a fraction of what is was before the lockdown, hit not only by people working from home but also by the slump in tourism, which usually attracts about 30 million people to the city each year.
On Thursday, card taps on the Underground were still only around a third of their level of a year ago and bus journeys were down by about half.
Data from Google website also suggested an increase in people in the Greater London area – covering the city’s suburbs – rose in the seven days to Aug.
30 after largely flatlining since July.
The rise was echoed in Google’s mobility data for workplaces in other cities, such as Madrid and Berlin, but was more pronounced in London.
The largely empty commercial centre of the British capital was described as a ghost town by a business leader last week.
Businesses reliant on office workers have been hard hit, a situation mirrored elsewhere in Britain and abroad.
Mobility data published by Apple on Friday, based on requests for directions on public transport by users of Apple Maps, also showed an increase website in London as well as in other cities.
Johnson has called on people working from home to get back to their workplaces this week as many children returned to schools that have been largely closed since March.
Road congestion in London, and elsewhere in Britain, has been close to pre-lockdown levels for much of the past two weeks, according to data from TomTom, a manufacturer of location technology and devices.
Britain’s statistics office said on Thursday that people around the country had continued to gradually return to their workplaces in late August.
Fifty-seven percent of working adults travelled to work between at least once between Aug.
26 and Aug. 30, up from 55% two weeks earlier and 33% in May, it said.
(Writing by William Schomberg, graphics by Leigh Thomas in Paris; editing by John Stonestreet)