Update, 13 March 2020, 17:00 Subsequent to this article’s publication, the Cabinet Office announced that the London Mayor and Assembly elections will in fact be postponed, and for a full year.
Sadiq Khan has announced that his freeze of Transport for London public transport fares will be restricted to the capital’s bus service in future years if he is elected to serve a second term as London Mayor.
Speaking to London broadcasters this morning, the Labour Mayor, who is well on course for re-election according to a recent opinion poll, revealed that his freeze of all fares set by TfL over the past four years would end if he is returned to City Hall, but be maintained for buses through any second term.
The Mayor also concurred with the government’s view, made known by Downing Street this morning, that the elections for Mayor and the London Assembly should go ahead despite the Electoral Commission recommending they and other UK elections scheduled for the same day should be postponed until the autumn.
Khan’s pledge on bus fares means that a single ride on a bus is set to cost no more than £1.50 until the end of 2024. He also promised to retain the Hopper fare, which enables passengers to travel by multiple buses (and also London trams) for £1.50 within the space of one hour.
Although he would abandon the freeze for London Underground, Overground and Docklands Light Railway services, Khan has promised not to raise these fares by any more than inflation, as defined by the retail price index (RPI).
The Mayor is likely to attract criticism for declining to abandoned the freeze completely or to commit to larger increases, given that the current TfL business plan assumes future fares growth of RPI plus one percent and the delay in opening the main section of Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line has deprived it of badly-needed new revenue stream.
There are also reports of a sharp fall-off in Tube ridership in the past fortnight due to fears about transmission of coronavirus. On London has approached TfL for the most up to date figures. Khan’s Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey has already said that he would increase TfL fares.
Khan’s decision to relax the freeze has been welcomed by think tank Centre for London, whose director Ben Rogers said the policy so far “disadvantaged regular travellers and commuters while benefiting less regular travellers and visitors” because it “only applies to single fares” and does not cover travelcards.
Photograph by Omar Jan.
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