Mayor resisting ‘unacceptable’ government demand to strip free TfL travel from young and old

Mayor resisting ‘unacceptable’ government demand to strip free TfL travel from young and old

Sadiq Khan would find “totally unacceptable” government conditions on a new TfL funding deal such as extending the congestion charge zone to the North and South Circular roads or “taking free travel away from children and older people” according to a source close to the Mayor, as negotiations continue over a new short-term funding settlement for the capital’s transport body.

The comment was in response to a Sky News report informed by a leak from the Department for Transport, which says those measures are among the strings the government wants to attach to £1 billion of funding, along with increases in existing public transport fares. The mayoral source said Khan “would not ask Londoners to accept them in these exceptionally difficult times.”

The strong words underline the Mayor’s frustration with the direction of discussions, something he hinted at Mayor’s Question time earlier today. “Back in May, I said the [previous emergency] deal was a sticking plaster,” he said. “I appreciate that there are competing demands and difficult choices to be made in all of this under great time pressure, but I fear we are yet again on course for a short term make-do-and-mend fix.”

A sum of £1 billion would fall far short of the £5.7 billion total TfL is seeking to keep it going for the next 18 months. Khan contrasted TfL’s treatment with that of the country’s privately-owned train operating companies, which were given “an 18-month bailout which allows them to make a profit.”

He and child poverty groups have campaigned vigorously against what the first bailout termed a “temporary” suspension of free travel for nuder-18s, which TfL has said cannot happen before next spring due to the technology challenge it presents.

On London understands that Andrew Gilligan, a journalist friend and supporter of Johnson who has been made the Prime Minister’s special transport adviser, was closely involved with pressuring TfL to suspend the concession to young people, which the government originally wanted to take place in the spring. It later expressed the hope that it could happen this month, after half term.

Free travel for people aged 60 and above was withdrawn before 9:00 as a condition of the May bailout, affecting both holders of the local authority-funded Older Person’s Freedom Pass and the 60+ London Oyster photocard, a concession introduced by Johnson when he was Mayor in 2012 after the government raised the age for Freedom Pass eligibility.

As Mayor, Johnson halved the size of the congestion charge zone by removing its western extension in December 2010 and twice raised the level of the charge for the remaining original Central London zone area during his eight years at City Hall. Khan’s 2016 election manifesto pledged not to increase the charge if elected.

Khan said at MQT that it is clear that “passenger numbers are not going to return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon,” and reiterated that “Covid-19 has left TfL dangerously exposed” given its high dependency on fare income.

“TfL cannot invest in London’s future when we don’t know where the next pound is coming from,” he said. “A drip-feed approach to funding might suit the government, but it would be catastrophic for London and our country.” exists to provide fair and thorough coverage of the UK capital’s politics, development and culture. It depends greatly on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up London news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate directly or contact for bank account details. Thanks.


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  1. Kyle Harrison says:

    The reality is far fewer people are using the tube, far fewer especially in traditional peak times. If money needs to be saved, and it does, they should cut peak time services. What’s the point of running the tube like we’re still living in pre Covid times? I live in SW London so maybe I’m just used to mainline train life, but it’s not actually the end of the world to wait a bit longer for a train.

  2. diana says:

    Oh the irony . Gilligan , the man who spent millions of Tfl’s money on cycle lanes as advisor to Boris as mayor, is now his consultant . Khan has practically bankrupt Tfl but Gilligan started it when he deprived Tfl or so much revenue in order to placate his lycra clad white male cycling friends. I mean would you trust a man who built cycle lanes for a minority whilst emergency vehicles had no access and millions of bus travellers had their journeys extended by 25 minutes . He was also the man who destroyed Ken Livingstone . The only decent mayor we ever had in London . Evil person

  3. Sandra Holland says:

    Taking away freedom passes would be counterproductive as older people will just not travel meaning hardly any extra income. Why not consider charging a small fee pa like for 60+ card with those on pension credits getting one for free!

  4. Steve J says:

    I don’t see Freedom Pass (ie people 66 and over) being abolished. It’s essentially a national scheme, funded by councils and would save TfL next to nothing. The 60+ pass is another matter but is risky for the Tories as it hits a demographic that tends to vote for them. Conversely, they probably aren’t bothered by axing the youth free fares as they won’t vote Tory in any case.
    I don’t mind an extension of the CC to the North/South Circulars. The infrastructure is going in anyway for the ULEZ and it could be a useful step towards road pricing which most politicians will privately admit is the future. There would have to be a two-tier rate, lower for the extension area to avoid sucking cars into the centre that otherwise would have already paid. The trick for Khan and Labour, though, is to absolutely pin it on Johnson. Give it a name people will remember – the”Boris Zone”.

  5. Antoine Chellumbrun says:

    I as a pensioner I don’t mind to a small contribution yearly to TFL for the freedom pass if there are no other options by the government, obviously I am speaking for myself on this issue. I live in an area where there are a lot of poor older people who live on their own and they relied on the public transport to help them to do their shopping, go to health clinic, hospital etc . However if they have not this kind of facilities some other government departments will have to take care of them,and how much that will cost per person?

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