TfL's fares income from the Tube is down £89m so far this year due to fewer passenger journeys than expected

Rebecca Smith
A fall in passenger numbers has proved troublesome
A fall in passenger numbers has proved troublesome (Source: Getty)

Transport for London (TfL) is continuing to battle the impact of an unexpected dip in passenger numbers, with both rail and London Underground fare income lower than expected for the year so far.

In board papers published late last night, the transport body's finance report for the four weeks ending 3 February said Underground passenger income is down four per cent for the year to date, or £89m on its budget forecast, "largely driven by four per cent fewer passenger journeys than budget".

It did say however that Underground demand had showed "some signs of improvement" over the period - which will be key for TfL as the Tube is the only part of the network that makes a profit.

Read more: TfL keeps slashing costs to tackle near £1bn operational deficit

Rail passenger income meanwhile, is five per cent or £21m below budget, partly due to the closure of the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking Line for improvement work.

TfL said service resumed mid-January and demand has recovered to 80 per cent of pre-closure levels, with a marketing campaign ongoing to remind passengers the line is open.

And rail journeys nationwide have been dipping - the latest report from the Office of Rail and Road this month said passenger journeys across Great Britain were down 0.9 per cent for the third quarter, driven by a chunky fall in season ticket journeys.

Bus income for TfL meanwhile was two per cent higher than forecast, with passenger journeys up as average bus speeds increased, and ticket machines have become more reliable after software improvements.

Members of the London Assembly have previously raised concerns that TfL doesn't fully understand why passenger numbers are dropping.

A report from the Budget and Performance Committee in January said it wasn't convinced the dip in numbers was a blip, adding that if the fall is down to lifestyle changes, with more people working from home, shopping online, and using ride-hailing apps like Uber, then an expected upswing "may not materialise".

Congestion charge and enforcement income for TfL is also 13 per cent below budget, while commercial development income is down £15m or seven per cent on budget because of "challenging market conditions".

Yesterday, TfL said it remained confident of tackling a steep near £1bn operational deficit as it looks to cut costs further and reduces headcount further.

The capital's transport body has published its draft budget for 2018/19, with operating costs expected to be around £200m lower than the budget for the year before.

While it expects an operational deficit of £968m next year, TfL plans to turn that around to an operating surplus by 2021/22.

Read more: TfL doesn't "fully understand" why passenger numbers are falling

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