As negotiations with the European Union continue, Brexit has understandably gone up the list of Londoners’ concerns. International visitor numbers, and visits to the capital’s attractions, have slowed, though spending by overseas visitors has risen. While declining public transport passenger numbers present funding challenges in the long term, road casualty numbers have seen no significant change over the last year. Although crime declined as a public concern, there has been a particular increase in violent crimes.
Tube and bus journeys
Growth in ridership on London’s transport network continues to be stalled. While the number of tube journeys decreased in August and September, this was in line with the usual seasonal trends; the year-to-year average seems stable, and has been since 2015. In contrast, bus journeys increased in September, but the longer-term trend has been three years of decline.
The possible reasons for declining public transport patronage are manifold – including low journey speeds and reliability caused by congestion, as well as changing working patterns and consumer habits. Combined with the effect of the fares freeze, the bus hopper fare and the delay in Crossrail opening, the decline in passenger numbers could have a significant impact on Transport for London’s long-term revenues. This has already led to a postponement of tube upgrade plans and a freeze on road network maintenance.
There were over 32,500 casualties on London’s roads in 2017, 130 of whom suffered fatal injuries. While there are individual borough-level changes year-on-year, across London as a whole there was little change on the previous year.
The number of casualties on London’s roads, and the severity of road accidents, shows variation across the capital. Westminster saw the highest number of road accidents, with 1,900 casualties in 2017, while Enfield was the borough with the most fatalities (10). The six fatalities which occurred in Westminster last year include the five victims who died during the Westminster Bridge attack.
The Mayor’s Vision Zero plan aims to eliminate all serious and fatal injuries from London’s roads by 2041, with new speed-limiting devices on buses and an increase in 20mph speed restrictions across the capital. The City of London, meanwhile, has proposed even lower speed limits of 15mph for the Square Mile.
London has struggled to regain the high number of international visitors that it is used to, with only four million visiting London in Q1 2018. Visitor numbers were down 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2018, when compared with the same period in the previous year.
Spend per visitor
The average international visitor spends 5.5 nights in the capital, and spent just under £650. Spending by international visitors in London was bolstered by the weakening pound in the first quarter of 2018, up 6 per cent on the previous year.
Admissions to over 60 of London’s top attractions fell 4 per cent in the quarter to June 2018, when compared with the same period last year. Visitor attractions in outer London fared worse, falling 7 per cent in the second quarter of 2018 when compared with Q2 2017, whilst those in Zone 1 saw a 4 per cent decline over the same period.
Relative to others, Brexit concerns are growing, with just under half of Londoners naming Britain’s departure from the European Union as a top concern. Though concerns about Brexit are lower in London than in the rest of Britain, they grew by 13 per cent in the third quarter of 2018, and have remained the single largest issue facing the capital every quarter since the referendum in June 2016.
Concerns about the NHS remain a major concern (cited by 32 per cent of respondents) though the issue has seen a 4 per cent fall on the previous quarter. Fewer Londoners are worried about crime in the capital than in the second quarter of 2018, with a 10 per cent reduction in the proportion of respondents who mention it as an issue.
Though some types of recorded crime show monthly fluctuations, others remain steady, with marginal change over the last two years.
While crime is less of a priority issue in opinion polls, violent crimes in particular have increased. Violence against the person has seen a 5 per cent year-on-year increase, with 21,200 offences recorded in August 2018. Of those recorded, over 500 instances of violence involved an offensive weapon, which represents a 6 per cent increase in the past year. The number of reported sexual offences increased 9 per cent in the year to August 2018, with the number of rapes increasing 14 per cent over the same period.
Attempts to measure some crimes, such as those related to drugs, may suffer from underreporting, while issues of prosecution persist. In recognition of the wider determinants of public health, the government announced a £5 million fund to support earlier interventions to tackle violent youth crime.
In the third quarter of 2018, over 3,000 individuals were recorded as sleeping rough by outreach teams in the capital, a 17 per cent increase on the same period last year. New and intermittent rough sleepers each accounted for around 45 per cent of the total, with the remainder described as living on the streets.
The number of people living on the streets more long-term has fallen 11 per cent on the previous quarter and is 10 per cent lower than the third quarter of 2017. In contrast, the number of new rough sleepers recorded during the third quarter of 2018 was 20 per cent higher than the same period last year.
With the winter months approaching, the cold weather raises concerns over the safety of those sleeping rough. 109 people sleeping rough died in the capital last year, with many more likely to have died unrecorded in hospital.