Millions of people could get free rides into London under bold new plans to fight the drop generated by Coronavirus.
Free tickets for trains, buses and the Tube are being discussed as a radical way of getting the public to see for themselves that it is safe to go back to offices and to enjoy restaurants, museums and shops.
It seems that talks with the Government have started regarding a scheme called First Ride Free, in which those who have not gone into central London since the pandemic lockdown would receive a credit to go in for the day.
Supporters hope it could be as successful at bringing people into the West End as Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out was at getting people back to restaurants.
Nervousness about using public transports is believed to be one of the central factors preventing people from going back to work or enjoying recreation time in central London.
The scheme was drawn up by London’s new transport commissioner Andy Byford and is being discussed with the minister for London, Paul Scully.
It will need government support to go ahead because of the financial implications for Transport for London, but the Government would like businesses to stump up a share of the costs.
Mr Scully said: “I’m looking at all options to show people rather than just tell them that there is a warm and very safe welcome waiting for them when they come back to the centre of our great city.”
A TfL spokesman confirmed that it was “one of several options being considered to further encourage the public back into central London in the upcoming months.”
Business groups backed the idea and urged the Government to make the rescue of central London’s economy a priority.
John Dickie, director of policy at London First, said: “The success of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme showed the value of innovative, short-term solutions to encourage people to go to restaurants, and the Government should adopt the same approach in supporting a return to public transport.
“More customers are now returning to public transport, and we see steady growth every day. We are delivering a near full Tube, bus and rail service and the network is cleaner than ever before”.