Sadiq Khan has been urged by a think tank to cut tube fares on Mondays and Fridays, to boost office attendance in central London.
A new report by the Centre for Cities has found that on average, central London workers are coming into the office 2.3 days per week – which it said is having an “uncertain economic impact” on the capital.
The think tank said policymakers should be asking whether London’s current level of office attendance will “be enough to both reverse the productivity struggles it has faced over the last thirteen years and drive up long term prosperity”.
It added that “local and national government should not passively let a public health emergency turn into a longer-term negative impact on the economy” and it makes several recommendations to reduce the risk of that outcome.
One such suggestion calls on Mayor Sadiq Khan to make “travelling into work on Mondays and Fridays – when things are quieter – significantly cheaper”, to try and bring workers back into the office.
Asked about the recommendation by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Khan said: “At the moment our hands are tied by the Government’s conditions [for Transport for London funding].
“The Government conditions were to – unlike the first four years of my mayoralty, to freeze fares – to make me increase fares above inflation. “So that’s where we are in relation to the Government’s conditions, but I’m quite keen to explore any sensible scheme to encourage people back into the centre of our city.
“But the first thing is to get the Government off our back, in relation to their conditions.”
Pressed on whether he would consider the proposal, he said: “I’m always looking at what we can do to encourage more people back into the centre of London.”
The report also says “there needs to be collective action to continue the recovery, with both the national government and the Mayor of London working with businesses to create a positive campaign in order to encourage an increase in the minimum number of days expected in the office”.
The think tank’s research found that “of those going into work (as opposed to working fully remotely), the most popular hybrid model was two days in the workplace – 31 per cent of workers did so”.
However, “almost half of workers went into their workplace for at least three days. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were the most common days in the office, while Friday was the least popular”.
The research also found that younger people were more likely to go into work than older people.
“Those aged under 30 spending more time in the office”, the report says.
“Given the likely contribution more experienced people make towards on-the-job learning for younger workers, this may be an important issue for skills development.”