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Off-peak Friday fares launch across London, Sadiq Khan reacts

Sadiq Khan hailed the start of his off-peak Friday fares scheme across London’s Tube and bus network today (March 8).

The mayor is trialling off-peak fares all day on Fridays over the next 12 weeks, in a bid to see whether it encourages workers back into the office.

Mr Khan said: “The great news is we reached a deal with the Rail Delivery Group, with the Department for Transport, and so the three-month trial begins today. I’ve saved 70p [this morning], so I’m happy.

“You’ve seen people are becoming aware now about the scheme. I suspect today won’t be the numbers we’d like to see, but as word spreads, I think more and more Londoners will be coming into London on Friday.”

He added that even in the years before the pandemic, fewer people were using the transport network on Friday.

Peak pay as you go fares ordinarily apply between 06:30 and 09:30 and between 16:00 and 19:00 on both TfL and National Rail services.

TfL statistics show midweek ridership on the Tube is at 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, but the figure for Fridays is just 73 per cent.

Asked what success will look like for the scheme, he said: “What we’ll be analysing and assessing is, those Zone 1 and Zone 2 stations on a Friday, now versus before the trial.

“But also other days of the week, pan-London as well. For example, does it lead to people’s journey patterns changing on other days of the week?”

Several discount offers on London restaurants and attractions have been created as part of the scheme, as an additional attempt at enticing Londoners back into the city centre at the end of the week.

Examples include:

  • 20 per cent off at Gaucho restaurants on Fridays (until 31 March)
  • Off-peak Friday prices to see the hit musical Wicked
  • Half-price tickets on Fridays for the ‘‘Turn It Up’ exhibition at the Science Museum

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall has previously dismissed the trial as a pre-election “gimmick”.

“The ‘trial period’ ends, just days after the election,” she wrote in the Daily Express in February.

“He doesn’t even have the decency to slap some lipstick on the pig, and pretend it is anything but an election stunt.”

She has previously said to the BBC that commuters “might change their habits slightly” but has argued that the saving will not be enough to make a major difference.

“If people are doing a three-day week [in the office], they’ll just change their days and not come in another day,” she said.