Fears for London’s competitiveness and cost of living pressures as Mayor hikes fares on government terms

Fears for London’s competitiveness and cost of living pressures as Mayor hikes fares on government terms

Sadiq Khan has confirmed that London’s public transport fares will rise by an average of 5.9 per cent from 5 March rather than have funds withheld from Transport for London by the national government under the terms of its current funding support arrangement.

Under that agreement, the last of a series of deals hammered out under the Conservative now former transport secretary Grant Shapps after Covid devastated TfL’s finances, Mayor Khan was informed that fares must rise in line with national rail fares set by the government or be made to forego additional financial support.

The Labour Mayor said: “My hands have been tied since the pandemic by the strict conditions set by the government in the recent emergency funding agreement for TfL, which means fares have to be increase in London by the same amount as national rail fares – 5.9 per cent.”

The increase, which Khan had flagged in advance, follows a five-year freeze of TfL fares from 2016 and will see the price of a Zone 1 peak period Underground ticket go up by 30 pence to £2.80 and a single bus fare rise by 10 pence to £1.75 – although the Hopper fare, which allows passengers to take two bus or tram journeys for the price of one within a one-hour period will continue. The daily cap on Tube or other rail travel will be hiked by 70 pence to £11.70.

Adam Tyndall, programme director for transport at BusinessLDN, said the rise will be “deeply concerning to Londoners” while recognising that TfL has had take difficult decisions in order to balance its books. A BusinessLDN survey of 1,000 London employees found that two-third of those with the option of working from home to save money on transport will do so.

Tyndall added: “Increasing fares goes against the tide of progressive cities making public transport cheaper and more accessible to expand ridership, boost their economies and tackle the climate emergency. Without a similar plan London is at risk of falling further behind international counterparts.”

Claire Harding, research director of think tank Centre for London, described the increases as “a further blow for Londoners already grappling with rising prices and the highest cost of living in the country” and said “to support our economic recovery and to get to net zero carbon we need to be getting more people onto public transport across the city, not pricing them off it”.

Harding expressed particular concern about the bus fare increase, pointing out that “people who use buses are often those with the lowest incomes” and “least able to cope with rising costs”. Sian Berry, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, also drew attention to the issue, describing the bus fare rise of 6.1% as “rotten”. In November Berry urged Khan to freeze bus fares and warned against moving the price towards £2.

In her capacity as chair of the Assembly transport committee, Berry also responded to the Mayor’s decision to continue preventing Londoners aged over 60 travelling for free before 9am – an erosion of the concession imposed by the government under the terms of its very first short-term emergency funding package in 2020.

In a statement Berry said Age UK London chief executive Abigail Wood had told the committee yesterday that “one of the most frequent reasons for over 60s to travel before 9am was to attend health appointments, followed by going to work and caring responsibilities”.

Today, Wood said: “We are devastated that the voices of older Londoners have been ignored. Affordable transport is a lifeline not a luxury and this cut penalises them with no choice about when and how they travel. Age UK London is deeply concerned this comes at the worst possible time as the cost-of-living crisis worsens and more and more older Londoners are plunged into poverty.”

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