Survey finds huge opposition from young Londoners to suspension of free transport

Survey finds huge opposition from young Londoners to suspension of free transport

More than 95 per cent of 16-to-18 year-old Londoners who responded to a survey by a pan-London youth charity believe the government should drop its requirement that Transport for London temporarily suspends the free travel concession for under-18s.

Partnership for Young London, a City-based charity which supports and convenes youth organisations across the capital and conducted the research, says over 2000 young Londoners filled in the survey, which was conducted through Facebook advertising and Instagram.

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents said they had heard about the plan, which is a condition of the government’s recent financial bailout of TfL, along with increasing the congestion charge and its hours of operation, raising all public transport fares by more than the rate of inflation, and placing representatives on the TfL board.

Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) said they were worried that their parents would struggle to make ends meet if they had to pay for transport.

Over 70 per cent of survey respondents said they use the bus to get to school or college, compared with 16.5 per cent who travel by train, 5.8 per pent who walk, 4.6 per cent who take the Underground and 0.6 per cent who cycle. Nearly half said their trips to school involve two journey stages – such as taking two buses, or a train followed by a bus – and 20 percent said change twice.

Nearly three-quarters said that if they have to pay for transport they would change how they get to school, with 40 per cent of these saying they would walk instead and 24 per cent saying they would switch to the bus from others modes (presumably because bus travel is cheaper than Tube or rail). Nine per cent said they would go by car or cab, and 12.5 per cent said they would cycle. The survey was funded by Trust for London.

The survey results were highlighted today by deputy mayor for transport, Heidi Alexander, who said the government is “still not clear on what changes they want to make, how or when” and applauded Sadiq Khan’s opposition to the move.

They follow a report from London TravelWatch, the official watchdog of London transport-users, which highlights concerns among young Londoners about not being able to afford fares for journeys to school, to visit friends and relatives or explore the city, becoming more dependent on parents, and threats to personal safety if left exposed on the streets.

The Child Poverty Action Group has been conducting a campaign against the suspension called Don’t Zap The Zip, a reference to TfL’s 16+ Oyster photocard. Its supporters include Sustrans, CitizensUK, Centre for London, Trust for London, London TravelWatch and the Association of Colleges.

The government says the change is needed to prevent overcrowding on London’s buses, which currently have greatly reduced passenger capacities in order to lessen transmission of Covid-19. However, TfL have complained that the measure was added to the bailout conditions at the last moment and will be difficult to implement in practice.

On London understands that Boris Johnson’s special adviser on transport, Andrew Gilligan, has been at the forefront of pressuring TfL over the measure.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps, has said that the Mayor will be able to restore the concession in future should it go ahead, though only after TfL’s financial position has been “resolved”.

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