We’ve all been there: out with friends on the other side of London having a great time – save for the constant watch-checking and anti-social Googling of what time the last tube is. Even with Uber, taxis around the capital are expensive and winding through London’s back alleys is not appealing if you’re on your own and have just seen the latest copy of the Daily Mail.
So you have two options:
1. Leave the party early with the excuse that you have to change three times, so if you actually want to get home by tube, you have to head back by 11pm.
2. In place of a 20 minute tube ride, endure an hour and a half’s journey on the night bus, home to shrieking girls, ‘lads on tour’, and more than likely a person being sick over the back seat – but it’s only £1.50.
So after months of political wrangling with the unions, the night tube is finally opening in August, almost a year overdue. But will it really be good for London or will it soon be dubbed the ‘vomit comet’?
New York, Sydney, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Chicago all offer night-time metro services, and arguably London should be up there with them. We have such a vibrant, lively city with so much art and culture, why should we limit it? TfL estimates that the night tube will boost London’s night-time economy by £360 million a year and create 1,965 permanent jobs. It will open up a wealth of new commercial opportunities, not only for bars and clubs that will allow Londoners to socialise until dawn, but also more creative ventures that will ensure the city remains dynamic and exciting.
Amid myriad claims proclaiming the ‘death of the pop-up’ – even Time Out declared that “We’ve reached peak pop-up” – the night tube could revitalise this sector and the hugely popular late night foodie events like Night Tales will become even bigger and better. There is a hope that the service will positively shape the city’s cultural landscape with the director of the Tate museums, Sir Nicholas Serota, recently saying he believed that the night tube “will change people’s patterns of behaviour” so the demand for services will shift, for example, The Tate has suggested that it might stay open until midnight giving people more opportunities to enjoy its exhibitions.
While all of this is great for us culture vultures and night owls, perhaps we should spare a thought for those residents living by tube lines who will be disrupted by trains rumbling by every 10-20 minutes and will have to put up with revellers spilling out onto the streets at all hours. An internal report obtained by The Times warned that the introduction of the night tube could lead to a rise in drunkenness, violence and sexual assaults on the tube, meaning that safety and security will have to be increased in and around stations. So while NYC might have a 24-hour service, it is also more equipped to deal with the unintended consequences such as having plastic seating which can be easily hosed down.
Despite this, for me the night tube opens up a world of opportunities for London’s entrepreneurs and consumers alike. It will offer a quicker and cheaper way of getting home meaning that those extra few coins can go towards another round, another bowl of ‘pudding nachos’, or a late night gallery opening.
No more falling asleep on the bus and ending up in Hainault – and if there’s a sickly man next to me, I’ll just quietly move carriage.