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What The Night Tube – Starting 19th August – Means For Londoners

Photo: Mary Galloway
At long last, we have a start date for London's all-night underground. From 19th August, we'll be tapping in at sunrise on the Central and Victoria lines, and the Piccadilly, Jubilee and Northern lines from Autumn. The scheme, which will operate on Friday and Saturday nights, was due to start on 12th September last year, but a backlash from London Underground workers' unions, in the form of a series of 24-hour strikes, slowed the process.

London's new mayor, Sadiq Khan commented: "The Night Tube is absolutely vital to my plans to support and grow London's night time economy – creating more jobs and opportunities for all Londoners. The constant delays under the previous Mayor let Londoners down badly. I have made getting the Night Tube up and running a priority, and London Underground has now confirmed that services on the first two lines will launch on 19th August.”

Apparently the service will offer 2,000 new jobs and provide a sweet boost to the economy too – a speculated £360m over a 30 year period.

Besides longer nights out and fewer night buses, what impact will a 24/7 Tube service have on women in London? And how will drinking on the underground be satisfactorily managed?

All questions that are, at this moment in time, difficult to answer, but important to speculate upon. As Sadiq Khan himself outlined in a speech in Brixton last March, women are increasingly falling victim to violence on London's public transport system. "Women face specific challenges on our transport network that are not currently being addressed. I was appalled about the recent decision by British transport police to scrap the sexual violence unit. Reports of sexual offences on the London Underground almost tripled over the past five years. As mayor I will take these problems seriously."

Last week ActionAid reported that at least 36% of women (from a market research project involving 2500 women) living in the UK's major cities have felt at risk of harassment on public transport – and that number soars to 51% in London.

A separate report by the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee has outlined 12 potential Tube stations on the new night-line where the running of all-night Tubes could result in increased violent activity. The study highlights the following stations: Camden Town, Victoria, Vauxhall, Brixton, Waterloo, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, London Bridge, North Greenwich, Leicester Square, Charing Cross and Hammersmith. The researchers claimed that the British Transport Police had begun working with the The Metropolitan Police to ensure these stations increase the number of police on patrol when the Night-Tube begins.

Certainly pubs and clubs will benefit from the new service, but drunk behaviour on the overground is already an issue for weekend services. Alice Jones commented in The Independent that: "It would be nice to think that removing the urgency which an 11.30pm deadline imposes on an evening’s fun might slow all the binge drinking, but it probably won’t. What one saves on a taxi fare will end up being spent on a couple more pints. Good news for the Treasury, bad for the individual’s bank balance – and hangover."

It is surely bad news for Uber, mini-cab and black taxi drivers too as the cost of getting the Tube home is about the same as the starting fare of a black cab.

While we'll have to wait to see how these doubts play out over the course of the summer, one thing is for sure, the old "last Tube home" excuse will no longer be valid...