Monday 14 September 2015 10:53 am

TfL Tube strikes 2015: Why they were good for commuters and the economy

The chaos of the Tube strikes may have caused misery and disrupted your commute, but actually they more than likely did you a favour – and the economy too.

A summer blighted by strikes forced people to find alternative routes and deviate from their usual commute. Of course, no one likes change, but new research suggests that Londoners actually discovered new ways to get to work that were more efficient than the same old journey they had been doing beforehand.

Mining the data collected from thousands of Tube journeys, researchers from Oxford University have concluded that the strike which took place in February 2014 opened up commuters to "superior journeys" that were better than their pre-strike ones, and which they then switched to afterwards.

The blame lies at the feet of the Tube map itself, which, because of its layout, makes us think that some routes are quicker than others, when the representation of the Tube network is distorted for aesthetics. 

Read more: This is how many hours we spend commuting

"Users of the London underground face imperfect information on several relevant features of the available alternative routes in getting from A to B," the researchers said.

"It is a schematic transit map, showing only relative positions of tube and train stations along lines. Consequently, the map is geographically distorted and gives users false impressions when it comes to actual distances between two points especially when comparing points along different tube/train lines."

They found that the effect was more pronounced in areas where the Tube map is more distorted.

The Tube strike worked as an efficiency driver to "bring about lasting changes in behaviour among a significant fraction of commuters." That's good for many Londoners who find a happier commute, but collectively, a more efficient running transport network means there are savings to be made.

"Since partial closure of the network is a rather radical way to achieve this, it is worth investigating whether clever use of journey planner apps can 'nudge' travellers to experiment more," the researchres concluded.