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New analysis of the London Tube strike in February 2014 finds that it enabled a sizeable fraction of commuters to find better routes to work, and actually produced a net economic benefit due to the number of people who found more efficient ways to get to work.

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The researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge analysed 20 days’ worth of anonymised Oyster card data, containing more than 200 million data points, in order to see how individual Tube journeys changed during the strike. Since this particular strike only resulted in a partial closure of the Tube network and not all commuters were affected by the strike, a direct comparison was possible. The data enabled the researchers to see whether people chose to go back to their normal commute once the strike was over, or if they found a more efficient route and decided to switch.

The researchers found that of the regular commuters affected by the strike, either because certain stations were closed or because travel times were considerably different, a significant fraction – about one in 20 – decided to stick with their new route once the strike was over.

While the proportion of individuals who ended up changing their routes may sound small, the researchers found that the strike actually ended up producing a net economic benefit. By performing a cost-benefit analysis of the amount of time saved by those who changed their daily commute, the researchers found that the amount of time saved in the longer term actually outweighed the time lost by commuters during the strike.

Read more on the University website (opens new window)