Transport Strikes May Boost Economy as People Find Better Ways of Getting Around

By Gary Cutlack on at

Men of science who have been looking into the effects of London's recent tube strikes claim they may end up having a positive effect on the economies of the future, as lessons learned by commuters could result in more efficient travelling in years to come.

The hypothesis comes out of a joint study by researchers at Oxford and Cambridge universities, who believe that perhaps one in 20 strike-hit commuters may have found a better way of getting into work as a result of the strike in February of 2014, making them marginally more productive workers for the rest of their careers.

The 2014 strike closed ticketing offices on the Bakerloo, Circle and Waterloo and City lines, leaving a few alternative lines open for business. The rainy weather apparently deterred people from walking too, with academics studying the Oyster card data of those forced to experiment -- finding that some ended up finding new routes that turned out to be better.

The team blames the warped reality of the Underground map's layout for causing inefficiencies in routes, with it masking some short physical hops that are perhaps better done on foot and discouraging experimentation with other lines that look longer and bendier. Tim Willems from Oxford university's economics department said: "Given that a significant fraction of commuters on the London Underground failed to find their optimal route until they were forced to experiment, perhaps we should not be too frustrated that we can’t always get what we want or that others sometimes take decisions for us." [FT]