Non-Londoners may look with envy at the capital’s public transport network, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In fact, many Londoners are still “locked out” of the benefits of the network, because of poor connectivity, cost and inaccessibility. That’s the message of a new report Fair Access: Towards a Transport System for Everyone, from the Centre for London think tank.
The report urges transport authorities and planners to consider equity and social as well as economic benefits when making investment decisions, and calls on the Mayor to make the system fairer by reviewing fare structures, zoning and concessions such as the 60+ Oyster card.
It’s a detailed look at a complex picture, mapping connectivity, affordability and accessibility across London and assessing the negative impacts of the limited travel choices many Londoners face.
Londoners spend more of their income on transport than people in the rest of the UK and residents in other “world cities” – an average of £137 a month. And poorer people spend more of their income on getting around, with those taking home £1,000 or less a month forking out 13 per cent of their income on transport, almost three times the outlay for those earning £2,000 a month or more.
While richer and poorer areas of the capital may both enjoy better or worse connectivity, the analysis shows that “nearly half (46 per cent) of the most deprived Londoners face the challenge of poor transport connections”.
More than a third of Londoners live within 500 metres of an Underground or rail station, but it’s a patchy picture: fewer than one in five homes in Havering, Bexley and Barking & Dagenham are within that distance, and south London is particularly badly served by the Tube.
Connectivity means better access to schools, hospitals, shops and other amenities and, crucially, jobs – a 45-minute journey on public transport for Inner London residents provides access to an estimated 2.5 million jobs, compared to a maximum 500,000 jobs for Outer London residents.
But affordability is the Achilles heel of the city’s transport network. Even where connectivity is good, poorer people are priced off the Tube, with only 38 per cent of low earners using it at least once a week. While single bus and Tube fares under City Hall direct control have been frozen since 2016, with Mayor Khan announcing a further freeze for 2020, other fares for regular commuters, set under government regulations, have risen every year.
Connectivity issues coupled with the costs of travel constitute a toxic cocktail, limiting job opportunities and leaving people “trapped in a vicious affordability cycle”, the report finds.
At the same time, older and disabled people are held back by accessibility issues on the network, and more deprived communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution – despite being least likely to use a car – and more likely, as pedestrians, to be injured in traffic accidents.
The report recommends a fares overhaul, including phasing out concessions such as the 60+ Oyster Card, currently giving free travel to many Londoners still in work and the “nominee” pass for Transport for London employees.
And travel zone boundaries should be reviewed to “ensure they reflect the shifting geographies of poverty and affordability,” with possible re-zoning for stations in low-affordability areas, such as Becontree in Dagenham and Seven Sisters, South Tottenham and Tottenham Hale in Haringey.
Finally, transport decision-making should emphasise social as well as economic benefits and prioritise “inclusive design, affordable and active transport investment and affordable housing development”.
Lead researcher Silviya Barrett said: “There is much the Mayor and Transport for London can do to make transport truly inclusive. Reviewing fare structures and zones is one place to start, but ensuring that equity is a central consideration in all transport planning and investment decisions would create fairer access for everyone.”
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