UK shoppers and workers kept home by rail strikes and cold snap, data shows

Fears in retail and hospitality sectors that severe drop in footfall could push some firms over the edge

Train strikes, a cold snap and snowy conditions have kept workers and shoppers from city centres this week, emptying out high streets and office buildings, figures show.

Footfall on Britain’s high streets and at shopping centres plunged on Tuesday morning as consumers stayed at home, according to research by the retail data analysts Springboard.

Separately, office occupancy data showed that fewer workers made it to their desks across the UK on Monday in the face of snowy conditions, but levels attending slipped even further on Tuesday as rail strikes kept many working remotely.

London was particularly affected by the decision by office workers and shoppers to stay at home.

The two-day rail strike on Tuesday and Wednesday is the first in a wave of industrial action that will affect train travel for four weeks around Christmas. Only about 20% of normal services were expected to run during the strike involving about 40,000 members of the RMT union at Network Rail and 14 train operators, according to Network Rail.

Footfall at shops close to offices in central London was nearly 37% lower on Tuesday than the same day in 2019, Springboard found, while across the UK as a whole, it was 26%.

High streets across Britain also had much lower visitor numbers on Tuesday, with footfall down a third on the same day three years ago. Coming during the crucial pre-Christmas trading period, other types of retail locations were also affected. Footfall was nearly 28% lower at shopping centres, and was down 9% at retail parks.

Diane Wehrle, the insights director at Springboard, said: “The impact on retail and hospitality businesses in what is a critical trading time of the year, less than two weeks before Christmas, will undoubtedly be severe and could mean failure for some.”

Meanwhile, UK offices were considerably quieter on Monday, averaging 24% occupancy, which was 8% lower than the same day a week earlier, according to data from Freespace, a workplace technology company that tracks building occupancy levels.

Occupancy levels remained low on Tuesday, which is now one of the busiest days of the week in city centre offices, after rail passengers were advised not to travel during the strike.

Average UK office occupancy fell to 28%, down by more than two-fifths on the 47% level a week earlier. London offices were even quieter, reaching just 22% occupancy, less than half the 51% seen on the same day a week earlier.

However, the rise of remote working and video conferencing during the pandemic has enabled office workers to carry out their roles even if they are not able to reach their usual workplace.

“The acceptance of new working patterns has given everybody a newfound freedom to work where they want and how they want; to move the dial between independent and collaborative working as needed,” said Raj Krishnamurthy, the chief executive of Freespace.

Contributor

Joanna Partridge

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Rail strikes ‘cost UK hospitality sector £1.5bn in December alone’
Industry bodies say figure worse than predicted and expect ‘huge’ losses of businesses and jobs in 2023

Julia Kollewe

30, Dec, 2022 @9:23 AM

Article image
Pubs and restaurants expect rail strikes to hit third of Christmas bookings
Action ‘could cost hospitality sector £1.5bn in lost sales’ in peak season as it continues to struggle with rising costs

Sarah Butler

08, Dec, 2022 @4:27 PM

Article image
Rail strikes: Christmas Eve passenger trains to end by 3pm, says Network Rail
Long-distance departures between many big cities will leave in the morning

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

19, Dec, 2022 @4:32 PM

Article image
Rail strikes: showdown talks planned as country comes to a standstill
Unions, ministers and industry bosses to meet amid wide-scale disruption caused by only 20% of rail services running

Joe Middleton and Joanna Partridge

14, Dec, 2022 @6:07 PM

Article image
UK strikes: travellers face disruption as rail and Border Force staff take action
Post-Christmas passengers affected, while driving examiners at 71 test centres begin five-day strike

Kalyeena Makortoff

28, Dec, 2022 @9:26 AM

Article image
UK rail strikes: what would a deal mean for passengers, unions and operators?
We look at who might be the winners in the industry’s biggest industrial dispute in decades

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

11, Mar, 2023 @9:00 AM

Article image
Fresh UK rail strikes announced in run-up to Christmas
Passengers warned of travel disruption as workers at Avanti West Coast and Eurostar join widescale action

Joe Middleton

30, Nov, 2022 @6:31 PM

Article image
Rail strikes: Mick Lynch says ministers should ‘stop play-acting’
Unions and industry leaders to meet ministers in attempt to break deadlock

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

09, Jan, 2023 @11:45 AM

Article image
Rail strikes cause fresh disruption in Great Britain this weekend
RMT staff at 14 operators are taking action including LNER, Avanti, Southern, GWR and East Midlands

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

18, Mar, 2023 @10:33 AM

Article image
Rail strikes: passengers face fresh wave of weekend disruption
People urged only to travel if absolutely necessary on last weekend before Christmas

Gwyn Topham and Christy Cooney

17, Dec, 2022 @5:00 AM