Guess which transport hub handles more passengers than Heathrow? Nope. Not Changi Airport. Guess again, or try the Victoria underground station. Transport for London (TfL) estimates that over 83 million passengers use the station a year, 8 million more than Heathrow.
And that number is set to go up even more, as London’s soaring population puts the already creaking tube network under yet more strain.
London’s population is projected to grow from 8.8m to 10.2m by 2030. And if all those new residents use the tube network, the impact could, in the words of the TFL, overwhelm it to the point where the network will feel like “cramming four people into a telephone box”.
The number of passenger already using the tube is mindboggling with 1.3bn using it each year. This is projected to rise to 1.7bn by 2026 by which time 30 stations in Central London will experience crowding greater than four people per square metre. And by 2031 that overcrowding situation could extend to 50 of the 62 stations in the Underground’s Central Zone 1.
TfL’s response to the situation seems to be a mixture of the eminently sensible and the plain daft. It has already committed to carrying out ‘one of the biggest investment programmes in the world’ which will include signal upgrades and 250 new trains. (So far, so sensible.)
But it’s also considering issuing instructions to drivers not to stop at overcrowded stations. For those unfortunates already waiting on the platform and packed four to a square metre (which probably feels more like four to a centimetre) this may not seem such a good idea.
And in a statement that struck us as being even more illogical (at least if you’ve been elected to promote the tube network), a spokesman for the newly elected Mayor, Sadiq Khan, was quoted as saying, “We need to invest in other forms of public transport and that is why Sadiq will invest in making it safer and easier to walk or cycle”.
That should fix it!