Murky Depths

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Free bus travel for children axed as part of TfL bailout

The congestion charge is set to increase to £15 and operate seven days a week until 10pm after the Government bailed out TfL. Free travel for children is temporarily scrapped as is travel in the morning and evening rush hours to Freedom Pass holders.

As part of the deal to provide emergency funding to prevent imminent collapse as fair revenue hit the floor, central government have levied a number of conditions. The increase to 10pm is “temporary” and raises the question of whether a future candidate could promise to scale it back at elections in 2020.

These measures are likely enforced by central Government to help the conservative candidate in next years election. In recent days Shaun Bailey has highlighted TfL’s poor finances though continually failed to mention that George Osborne cut £700 million a year in funding which is now taking full effect.

Financing TfL has turned into petty political point scoring which now threatens the transport system of a major world city and source of wealth for the UK’s economy.

TfL were already one of very few cities across the world that had seen operating assistance from central government entirely cut . At the same time, all revenue from drivers in London via vehicle excise duty was sent to central Government to be spent across the country but not in London. It’s possible schemes like ULEZ were sped up to plug this gap.

Income from ULEZ and the congestion charge do not cover costs of maintaining roads, and so that meant tube users were subsiding drivers. There is nowhere else in the world where public transport users subsidise drivers.

Other measures that may be enforced as part of the bailout include ending free fares for certain groups and increasing fares above inflation. How this tallies with central Government’s aims to get people out of cars, limit congestion and encourage public transport in the mid to long term remains to be seen.

It would seem political games and hampering a Labour mayor are taking precedence over a general economic recovery after the current upheaval.

For an excellent look into the situation TfL found themselves in and how close they came to legally being obliged to make heavy cuts without a bailout, read this excellent article on London Reconnections.

There’s been a lot of stories in recent days across many tabloids about threats from Sadiq Khan on axing services without a bailout. The reality is TfL were close to collapse and by law would have to decimate services. For all the things wrong with TfL – and there are quite a few – no transport authority in the world can operate with income down 90 per cent. Thus they had to agree to any terms on the table when talking to government.

 

27 Comments

  1. These changes are going to upset parents, weekend drivers and freedom pass holders.

    I occasionally drive to Hackney on the weekend as it’s a long journey involving both train and bus. I also have the convenience of the car for transporting back a big purchase.

    I am mostly a user of public transport and having a 60+ Oystercard, know that I have to wait until after the rush hour if I want to use the train/tube, but there was previously no imposition on the buses. Is TfL now saying that I will have to pay if I board a bus during the rush hour? I can see me using the car more for local journeys that I would otherwise do by bus.

    • HK

      I am so lucky to be able to walk to work (45min each way) and use public transport if I have to go into central london.
      However, I also have a car and it’s more practical in some cases than using public transport (big items, high value items, traveling with family).
      I don’t think these people understand the real world and the practicality of their policies.
      They probably take taxis or have chauffeurs at our expense and do get to suffer the consequences of their own policies

    • Jaysee

      I think the facility should be withdrawn in London in line with the rest of the Country who have to wait until retirement age. Most people are still working between 60 to 65/67 now days.

  2. Eve

    I mean WOW – with reopening schools in June – removing free travel for kids is really an evil, evil move. Many families (especially with secondary school children who needs to travel to get to school) will be hard pressed with already massively slashed incomes to be able to send their kids to school. Unbelievable!

    • Graham

      Any idea how much the children fare will be? If you have more than one child you need toi take and collect from school every day will really hit parents pockets.

      Many parents travel miles on the buses to take their primary school age children to school. Either because the school is where they used to live near, grandparents or their near the parents place of work.

      Restricting the freedom pass during in the rush hour will also affect some pensionable aged and disabled people who are still working travelling to and from their jobs in the rush hour.

      Will there also bean increase in fares for other half price oyster card schemes like those offered to students and the unemployed do we know ?

      Car usage will go up again for local journeys adding to even more traffic congestion and grid lock in the peak hours. I use the us for work and local journies but do own a car for shopping and the weekends.

      All that said Sadiq KhanMayor Of London as been chipping away at London’s bus services for sometime with frequnecy cuts and cuttiing bus routes back including routes 53 171 172 and 286 (Evening and Sunday service). Frequency cuts on route 472 are also proposed. .

    • Anon

      I may be wrong but other parts of the country don’t get free travel for children. I have to pay for two to go to school. Why should London be different?

      • fromthemurkydepths

        Why do you want to drag London services down rather than improve devices in other areas of the country? Seemed to have fallen into the govt trap of us v them.

      • Investment Banker

        Agree with a lot of the sentiment here. The government has been involved in a lot of petty political point scoring as of late, I.e.:

        1. Attempting to move the House of Lords to York
        2. Alleged Miscommunication of emails in not participating in the EU Bulk Buying scheme of PPE
        3. Squeezing TfL dry to “rebalance” the economy.

        Now, it’s not that (3) is innately a bad idea to rebalance an economy, but to do it at the detriment of the largest contributing city to GDP in order to appease armchair voters is not a point of execution, but a point of silly rhetoric.

        Removing freedom passes and free U18 bus travel could pose two problems:
        1. Increase absenteeism in schools (once reopened) due to kids not being able to afford to pay for their travel to school.
        2. Increase isolationism amongst elderly people due to the inability to socialise or get out (increasing mental health problems)

        I propose these things:

        1. Make it mandatory for everyone to have PPE on a bus and refuse entry to people not carrying PPE.
        2. Effective decontamination of buses every 24hrs
        3. Remove hopper fare.
        4. Increase PAYG one way fare to £2
        5. Increase daily bus travel cap to £5/5.50
        6. Perhaps introduce a zone system with buses
        7. Remove all 3 door buses from service
        8. Increase fines for fare evading (more remote monitoring)
        9. Encourage people to part-walk and part-bus their journey

        Now I certainly don’t agree with everything Khan has proposed but do believe this guy has been caught between a rock and a hard place with:
        1. Cuts to police forces
        2. Cuts to bus services

        What does everyone think of these suggestions?

        • Rs

          I don’t agree with investment banker those who already pay to use public transport will have to pay even more if you remove hopper fares cap on bus and increase to 2 those people are normally essential workers or at the lower end of the scale a couple of years ago those with freedom pass had to wait until 930 and school children had to pay we are the only city in the world that is know of who doesnt receive a subsidy from local government and this just seems to be a political point scoring and I believe these measures are temporary with regards to ppe not everyone can afford to do that the government struggle with front line services how do you expect those with families esp to cope I agree about cleaning but that should be done anyway

        • CDT

          I agree 100% with your comments on police cuts and have said time and time again our emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance & Coast Guard) and all three of our Armed Forces should be ring fenced from cuts.

          Sadiq Khan made cuts to several Central London bus services on the promises he would make improvements to out of London bus services.

          As he thought everyone was going to abandon buses and all switch on to the Elizabeth Line which is now not likely to open until late 2021 due to he Covid-19 crisis.

          To be fair the fare freeze was costing TFL far too much money in lost revenue year on year and then we still havelarge numbers of people commiting massive fare evasion on London’s public transport which is also costing TFL millions in lost revenue every year.

          I personally would give children free fares up until the age of 16 possibly extended to 18/19 years old if still in full time education (School or 6th form college) but proof of education would have to provided each year so a photo bus pass could then be issued to cover the academic year.

          I would also keep the freedom pass as it is now for elderly and disabled people as these people deserve this and do deserve to be respected when travelling on our public transport.

        • Blakey

          Some good suggestions. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be possible to reintroduce a zonal system on buses because you just tap in and not out so the Oyster system would never know which zone you got off at.

          The old zone system for buses was removed to make fares simpler and probably to stop part fare evasion in the process

      • Mary

        Because also fares in other parts are reasonable

        • fromthemurkydepths

          Not true. Fares are very high across the rest of the UK in the deregulated system.

      • You cannot compare London to other parts of the country, in other parts of the country you’re able to drive across time and park in reasonable time.

        • fromthemurkydepths

          Not really in many cities which can be gridlocked. It’s taken me an hour to get from centre to suburbs on congested streets in some of the UKs smaller cities.

  3. Blakey

    The information that’s coming through is quite speculative on what exactly is going to happen. One news site said that Children won’t be able to travel for free and that Freedom passes won’t be valid at peak times. However, it also said that bus fares would temporarily be scrapped to protect the drivers against Covid-19 – I read that as being the buses temporarily will remain as they are.
    IF The mayor does decide that there will be time restrictions and no free fares for children on buses then this will mean that the system would have gone back to how it used to be back in the 1980’s and 1990’s where the Freedom passes at the time could not be used until 9.30am and there were child rate bus passes available which were at a much lower cost than their adult counterparts – however, Children who attended a school more than 3 miles from their home could get a free term time bus pass to enable them to get to and from school.
    It’s not an ideal situation, but you have to bear in mind that buses won’t be able to carry as many passengers in the future so the loss of fares will be huge – even a nominal fare of say 50p for Children without a pass using Oyster would help and stop unnecessary travel.

    • Currently, you can use a ‘freedom pass’ at any time on the buses, but have to wait untll 09:30 for the train or tube. A lot us who are both freedom pass holders and drivers, will switch to the car for journeys that would otherwise have been done by bus.

      • Graham

        Yes you are right Anonymous201481 car usage will increase for local journeys. What I often see going to work on peak hour buses is a lot of parents get on buses with buggies just to travel for one or two stops. With often three buggies on the bus at a time.

        Will TFL, bus companies and bus drivers insist that only one buggy allowed on the bus at a time in the wheelchair area to aid social distancing rules?

        • Marley’s Ghost

          Buses on the continent are designed to accommodate many buggies and wheelchairs, such as the brussels transport system in belgium. London buses are poorly designed with narrow aisles, steps, and a minuscule area for buggies/wheelchairs. The scrapping of bendy buses was a bad move in this respect. Stop attacking parents, please. The issue is with the bus design.

          • Graham

            For health and safety reasons the rules on London buses is either two buggies or one wheelchair in the space allocated for wheelchairs,

            If a wheel chair wants to board the bus then the buggies need to be folded away to make way for the wheelchair to board as the wheelchair takes priority over the buggies.

            .

      • Chris L

        Freedom passes and 60+ Oyster cards are valid on buses, Tubes, DLR and trams at anytime at the moment. Only trains are restricted before 0930. The announcement about child fares contained an instruction to TfL to introduce a scheme for travel to and from schools to be free.

  4. Charles Calthrop

    Along with the Prime Minister encouraging private transport over public, you’d think the government was deliberately hastening the collapse of public transport as a prelude to jump-starting car sales, with attendant revenue from fuel. With the change in working habits there will be a rethink and restructuring of work locations and more time spent at home rather than the office. Again a good scenario for the government: with a captive audience reliant on broadband, that’s where the next tax will be levied. Recession indeed…

    • I think the projected increase of car usuage is not the whole picture. Yes there will be more local car traffic, BUT if you work in a city centre there is nowhere to park when you get to work.

  5. CDT

    That is the trouble there is no where to park the car. If you do find a car park they are expensive and cost you a small fortune just to park the car.

    This as come at a time that there should be major investment in the public transport infrastructure and in improvements to outer London bus services.

    • RBS

      There is zero chance of investment with the tories in charge. What they are doing is political. They have wanted to destroy Tfl for years and Khan is the fall guy(not that i am a huge fan of Khan’s either) There is alot of jealousy outside of London regarding Tfl, and instead of investing in good transport for the entire nation. They would rather see Tfl destroyed and the services to be cut back.

  6. matt

    Disgusting what central govt have done here. London is always an investment, not a cost. Dragging down instead of trying to better it both long and short term should be headline news of the nasty party.

  7. Kevin

    The success of any City or Country relies heavily on a excellent public transport system with good intergration of services at Stations, Town Centres, Hospitals and Airports for example.

    Sadly London is still missing vital links to key areas of our City from some areas by bus and train.

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