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Footfall in central London down 27% on last week on first day of rail strikes

Passengers at Paddington station in London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.
Passengers at Paddington station in London, as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Picture date: Tuesday June 21, 2022.

Footfall in central London on the first day of the rail strikes is 27% down on last Tuesday as retailers say the industrial action is a “blow” on top of rising costs and staff shortages.

Retail analysts Springboard said the figures to 1pm showed that footfall in city centres outside of the capital was also down, by 11.2%.

In contrast, footfall in outer London and market towns was less affected, down 6.2% and 2% respectively, reflecting increasing numbers of people working from home, it said.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “The impact of train and tube strikes today on footfall is very clear to see, with a large proportion of people clearly working from home.

“The drop in footfall in central London and regional cities means that the gap from the 2019 footfall level has widened considerably – to -49.2% and -29.8%, which are levels that are equivalent to those recorded during lockdown.

“In contrast in market towns the gap from the 2019 footfall level has narrowed to just -2.5% below 2019 and -13.4% in Outer London.”

The strikes come as retailers were relying on their first restriction-free summer since 2019.

Springboard has predicted a 9.3% drop in footfall across all retail destinations this week, but expected that high streets would see 10% fewer shoppers and shopping centres would receive 13% fewer visitors.

Commenting ahead of the strikes, Ms Wehrle said: “The planned rail strikes are likely to encourage those who can hybrid work to work from home, and therefore footfall in towns and cities is likely to decrease – on the particular strike days but also on non-strike days, due to delays that are likely to be caused on non-strike days due to trains being in the wrong place.

“The latest evidence, from the day of the tube strike, indicates that footfall declined in central London whilst rising marginally in outer London.

“An increase in activity in outer-London centres has been synonymous with homeworking as people are able to frequent their local high streets more easily.”

Dee Corsi, chief operating operator at New West End Company, which represents 600 retail, restaurant, hotel and property owners across central London, said the strikes were expected to bring London’s West End, and the wider country, to a “grinding halt”.

She said: “This will be a particular blow for commuters reliant on these services to get into the capital and other city centres for work, and retail and hospitality businesses that are already struggling with rising costs and staffing shortages.

“With international visitor numbers still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, it is frustrating to see fresh disruptions that will deter much-needed domestic visitors.

“These strikes will hit our retail and leisure destinations at a time when they should be making the most of our first restriction-free summer since 2019.”

Half of Britain’s rail lines will be closed during strikes on June 21, 23 and 25 by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).

Transport for London (TfL) has also “strongly encouraged” people not to travel on London Underground on Tuesday because of a 24-hour walkout by the RMT and Unite.

The disputes have flared over pay, jobs and conditions.