Sadiq Khan is to freeze all Transport for London public transport fares for one year from 3 March, saying his decision will help “millions of Londoners” cope better with the cost of living crisis and “encourage people back on to our public transport network”, boosting the capital’s economy.
The Mayor’s decision, widely-anticipated after his draft consolidated budget was published, is to be backed by a £123 million allocation to TfL from Greater London Authority funds at Khan’s disposal.
City Hall says “potential savings” to Londoners compared with what fares would rise to were they increased in line with inflation could be “up to £90 a year” for pay-as-you-go (PAYG) passengers.
The freeze will apply to all journeys paid for using Oyster or “contactless” debit or credit cards, but not to travelcards, which cover journeys on non-TfL public transport services and have their prices set by the Department for Transport. Single and return paper ticket fares of TfL services will be frozen too.
There is nothing in the Mayor’s announcement about the levels at which “caps” on the maximum amount PAYG passengers will pay per day or week, which are linked to travelcard prices, will be set.
City Hall says “record numbers” of commuters are making use of PAYG compared with those who buy travelcards, with PAYG now accounting for 80 per cent of London Underground journeys and 74 per cent of bus journeys.
It says “the vast majority of Londoners” will benefit from the freeze and is also stressing that the Mayor is not following the lead of the DfT, which announced last month that most private rail fares will rise in March by 4.9 per cent.
Khan’s decision has been welcomed by leading London business organisations, with BusinessLDN deputy chief executive Muniya Barua saying “it will come as a relief to Londoners” and help with “getting more people onto public transport and encouraging more hybrid workers back into the capital”, and Dee Corsi, chief executive of the New West End Company business improvement district, saying the move “will benefit workers, shoppers and international visitors alike”.
The freeze is being billed by City Hall as a revival of the TfL fares freeze Khan maintained for the four years of his first term as Mayor following a period in which the government required him to increase them as a condition of emergency financial help during the pandemic.
It will be seen as a major initiative by Khan in his bid to win a third mayoral term and follows his promise to renew funding for free primary school meals across the city, another measure designed to alleviate continuing cost of living pressures.
His main challenger in the mayoral race, the Conservative Susan Hall, has not yet revealed her plans for public transport fares. She has been invited by On London to respond to Khan’s announcement.