For the last six months, reports of “travel chaos” have dominated London’s headlines, illustrating the misery besetting commuters in the capital. As timetables are torn up, stationary trains are held outside stations, and commuters are forced to take alternative routes to work, businesses across London are feeling the impact just as keenly as travellers.
We polled over 500 businesses with ComRes to understand the full scale of the problem, and the results are deeply concerning. Two thirds (67 per cent) of London firms have been affected by delays, cancellations and overcrowding on commuter train services in the last year.
Businesses are seeing real, tangible impacts, which are ultimately having a negative effect on their bottom line. More than half had been affected by members of staff being late to work at least once in the last year; and 48 per cent have had workers unable to come in altogether. More than one in ten (14 per cent) are affected weekly, with staff late to work due to widespread delays or cancellations on the rail network. Small businesses can be hit particularly hard if staff are unable to make it in – with fewer employees, each one counts.
Transport is quickly becoming a key business issue – 40 per cent named poor reliability and punctuality of rail services as one of the top three issues affecting their firm.
Much has been said about the problems besetting rail services, and while we are keen to make sure we understand the scale of the issue, the time has come to stop moaning about it and to start to consider solutions.
We need to look at whether the management of our rail services is in the right hands, and whether the situation could be improved by integrating rail services with the rest of our city’s transport under Transport for London. If the successful example of London Overground could be replicated on the rail network, commuters could see quicker and more frequent services linking them to transport in the capital.
After the election, we would like to see action from the Department for Transport, and we urge them to explore whether the responsibility for rail services could be devolved to TfL when franchises next come up for renewal.
London’s transport infrastructure is creaking, at the same time as the city’s population is booming. We know this and appreciate that our transport network needs a radical overhaul to ensure it can cope with the increasing population. We don’t dispute that work needs to be done and that this work is likely to have an impact on services in the interim.
However, we need to ensure that commuters – and businesses – aren’t bearing the brunt of the work’s impact. Keeping London – and its workforce – moving is key to maintaining economic growth in the capital.
It is simply intolerable that delayed and cancelled commuter trains into London are having such a significant impact on businesses, and it seems clear that more integrated management of our transport network could result in better services.