Murky Depths

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Free child bus trips in London scrapped imminently with Freedom Pass restrictions incoming

Sources today are suggesting that changes to London buses are to be introduced imminently that will possibly see free bus trips for children removed and restricted usage times for Freedom Pass holders over 60.

Freedom Pass holders will see free travel from 9:30am to 11pm. Children will pay 75p a trip. TfL have yet to confirm the exact date though we know it’s coming soon.

Tapped off

Double decker buses will be limited to 20 passengers and see front door boarding resume from tomorrow (30th May) on many – but not all – routes.

Not all buses will require payment immediately

Measures were pushed through by central Government as part of a recent bail out for TfL. The terms of the bailout enforced cuts – and without them TfL would have collapsed within hours and by law would have been forced to issue a Section 114 notice with would see extreme cuts across the board.

EDIT: Documents just released (11am on Friday 29 May) confirm it was central Government who insisted on an increase in the congestion charge and free fare removal. Post coming soon on that.

TfL saw a 90 per cent reduction in income as lockdown begun and forecast a £3.2 billion shortfall this year. No transport authority anywhere in the world can withstand that.

Unlike across most of the world, Government had already entirely cut funding support through grants for public transport in London to the tune of £700 million a year and then compounded the issue by claiming Vehicle Excise Duty from London drivers but prevented it from being spent in the capital.

TfL road network now no longer supported by Vehicle Excise Duty – hence congestion charge and ULEZ to fund

Some have complained that Sadiq Khan and TfL had been wasteful. Without getting into the specifics, projects quoted by opponents are often in the tens of millions. A drop in the ocean compared to a £3.2 billion shortfall and would make no impact on issuing a Section 114 notice. It may have bought a week. The fares freeze cost £640 million over four years – which is still less than one year’s cut from central Government at £700 million per annum. Again, a measure to reduce congestion on roads over four years is about 20 per cent of the current shortfall.

Tube upgrades axed

So we already had a very precarious situation, and then the pandemic hit and instead of government support – again as seen in most cities across the world – Whitehall have enforced cuts. The upcoming London Mayoral election is no doubt a part of this, but risking the UK’s financial powerhouse and major tax raising power of London for political games is extraordinary.

DLR serving huge growth in Stratford. Previous network expansion plans axed

The bailout will only cover a few months income – and of £1.6 billion, £505 million is a loan which will further hamper London’s transport network as repayment is needed. What happens after summer is unknown. Is Government really willing to destroy the London economy to allow a Conservative candidate a chance at the next election?

Like or loath Khan – and there’s much I’ve criticised him for – no Mayor or transport authority can withstand what has happened. Instead of supporting the capital, central Government have decided to swing the axe. They often talk about “levelling up” the UK. In reality, they’re levelling down. Other UK cities will not see London standards of transport to fight congestion. Instead London will be dragged down to levels elsewhere. If you’ve ever taken buses in most UK cities or used the one train an hour service in many cities from Bristol in the south to Manchester in the north you’ll know how bad it is. London could be heading there.

The removal of free travel for children and over 60s in the mornings is said to be temporary. We shall see. TfL will again run out of money soon without further support. Perhaps that’s the point. Whitehall says its temporary and yet doesn’t support London’s transport and so fares will be retained. Who takes the blame? It’s the classic trap of shifting blame to a local level through decisions made centrally.

Just yesterday the UK Government is talking of permitting 300,000 people from Hong Kong to move to the UK. Many will move to London. But they won’t fund infrastructure to support it.

In addition fares will rise above inflation. In coming years when normality returns car use increases, congestion increases and the economy stagnates.

 

 

42 Comments

  1. Derek Small

    Excellent article, and one that should be remembered when the Tory propaganda machine kicks in for the mayoral elections. Rarely do i see an article which reflects my exact feelings, this is one. Sadiq as u say is not liked by all, and I for one would have liked to have seen more done to reduce knife crime in the capital, but all too often his hands are tied for political reasons, by a central Govt who do not like an opposition party being in control of the nations economic engine. Think we need to stand behind who we have already (or Greens or Lib Dems if u thought they stand a chance here or are strongly allied to their respective causes, as I too am a ‘bit of a greeny’) and show the Tories they cannot win London by foul means, and they are unlikely to be fair. Hopefully there are no Tory trolls on here like Twitter, just stating the obvious, not attacking Tories without due cause!!

    • fromthemurkydepths

      I know some Tories who cannot abide what central Govt are doing and see crippling an economy for political reasons is madness. They want to win fair and square.

      • Graham

        Yes I totally agree with you Murky. Rather than charging children under the age of 16 to travel on the buses to and from school which can be dangerous for school children walking to and from in the winter.

        I would rather they look at at other half price oyster discount schemes offered by the Mayor of London and TFL to students etc.

        • Derek Small

          Hi Graham, i think every reduction in discounts offered will upset/annoy someone. there’s no easy answer really. stopping students getting assistance is also unfair (if they actually get any discount anyway i’m unsure). my son recently graduated from Med school after 6 years, straight into Covid19 ICU front line trauma work, his student debt is £65000!, and he starts paying that back already with 6% interest added. We really struggled to help finance him through Med school and any help students get I believe is welcome to assist them improve their lives and ours. There’ll be those who disagree though I’m sure, best answer is to keep all the charges same as they were, but Govt wouldnt allow that to TFL as an option. Blame Boris trying to score political points for a tory candidate for mayor! Also Nurses/Physio’s etc were getting a bursary and fees paid by govt to train, that stopped the year my other son started his physio training, his debt will be almost £40,000 now plus interest. thats one reason we are in dire need of more NHS staff. Again, blame the Tories! So lets not cut any of the reductions on tfl for anybody! they were all there for a reason!

  2. Dawn Green

    What about the 60+ with an Oyster card who have to go to work ?? This is going to be very hard financially for many esp if their hours have been reduced ? I thinking more of a tube/dlr journey. Now for me I do NOT need to travel before 9.30 unless its a hospital appointment But MANY MANY others do They need to establish between essential and non essential journeys

    • Derek Small

      Nice point Dawn, bet theres a lot of carers in that situation already on min income.

      • Dawn Green

        Derek not just carers !! but cleaners office staff call centres Teaching assts etc the backbone of our workforce (and us poor sods whose state pensions dates have changed and HAVE to work ) I cant get my SRP until I am 66 !!!!

        • Derek Small

          Totally agree Dawn,guess i mentioned carers as they’re in the news so much, but yes so many workers affected. And a double whammy with the female pension age risen to match the mens which was scandalous to do in one hit. All political parties would have done it eventually sadly as it was never first intended to be a permanent difference between genders, and female life expectancy is higher than mens, but to do it all at once without staggering over years was imho a scandal, and I’m amazed Govt got away with it so lightly. I would suggest (if u havent already) contacting your MP to raise the issue of free travel for workers over 60

        • Graham

          The 60+ oystercard scheme is totally separate to the Freedom Pass and is a scheme offered by the current Mayor of London. Although the scheme does really help a lot of 60+ people.

          The freedom pass you get if your state retirement age or over or have a disability/condition which qualfies you for a freedom pass.

          • Dawn Green

            it may be separate scheme but the terms and conditions are near enough the same I believe its only when you are out of the tfl zones so to speak if differs & then its a concessionary rate The Red Rose denotes the difference. I have worked in many London boroughs its not cheap

        • peter

          What about tfl staff mates flamily who get free fare they should been stop

  3. Tim Scott

    Could you clarify this please? As I understand things, a Freedom Pass is only available to those of age 66 and beyond, and is a countrywide concession. The 60+ Oyster card is for those aged 60 to 65 and is a London-only benefit. Is it the Freedom Pass or the Oyster card that’s being ‘temporarily’ withdrawn or restricted? Thanks.

    • Derek Small

      Both the 60+ Oyster and the 65+ freedom pass Tim, now no travel before 09.30 (as for many national rail services anyway already). Say temporary, but since tfl will still be struggling even after the bail out (part of which is only a loan anyway) will it ever be restored, who knows.

    • Dawn Green

      A Freedom Pass is for people of pensionable age The 60+ oyster which you ‘make an one off payment is only available to residents of a London Borough which strangely includes a couple of of areas that include Kent 🙂 I dont think Mr Khan has thought about the ‘older workers’

      • Kevin

        I totally agree with you Dawn many older people in part time jobs and on lower incomes will be particular hard hit by this as we now work on to 66 67 and soon 68 years of age.

        I woud like to make it clear that I do not belong to any political party. but I do have to wonder why is TFL in so much dire straits two months in to a new financial year and budget for 2020/2021. THey were so in sp much debt way before Covid-19 crisis.

        So the loss of fare income over the last few weeks because of covid-19 is only a part of TFL’s financial problems so part of the Government’s bail out to TFL is to hold TFL to account why they explain why there are in so much debt and how they plan to move forward.in the future. .

    • Dawn Green

      Sorry Tim forgot to Add This Yes 9.30am has been the time on main line train Mon-Friday but of course in the borough of Greenwich & other boroughs we have DLR and Jubilee Line travel permitted at any time !

  4. Tim Scott

    Just as I feared. Thanks for the reply Derek.

  5. Headlamp

    Rubbish. The Mayor published the governments demands and it told him to ‘bring forward’ changes in costs so he was going to do it anyway!

    • fromthemurkydepths

      And why was fare increases planned? As finances and support stripped back so heavily by central govt in recent years. Ask yourself why almost no other developed nation in the world does this?

  6. Chris L

    At the moment only buses manufactured by Alexander Dennis have had the cab modifications to allow the card reader to be used. There is a list on the TfL website which shows which routes start charging from tomorrow. One local example is Bexleyheath garage which has different makes. The 89 and 486 normally share buses. After tomorrow pay on the 89 and go free on the 486.

  7. anonymous201486

    I took journeys on the ‘Boris bus’ today and even though front entry is still barred, there was an announcement that passengers should tap to pay using the reader in the centre of the bus.

  8. anonymous201486

    @Derek Small, Mayor Khan launched the ‘violence reduction unit’ back in 2018, which is modelled on the Glasgow initiative which saw an significant drop in knife crime over a 10 year period.

  9. Derek Small

    That sounds encouraging, didnt realise he’d gone for that, any idea if there are any stats yet to see if working? (though guess numbers will be down anyway during lockdown). He is trying at least, I think it pains him like all of us.

  10. CDT

    The bus routes where you are rightly paying fares again from today are different on each publication. TFL state 124 routes now accepting fares from today. Thebus routes using the new routemaster buses like those used on routes 21 and 453 are all boarding through middle door where you can swipe your oyster card.

    Along with the single decker routes 507 and 521 (which are like the old red arrow routes) serving Central London. I wonder if we will now see the Revenue Inspectors back on these routes also from today?

    As these routes are prone to fare evasion another big headache for TFL with millions lost in fare revenue in unpaid fares.

    • fromthemurkydepths

      I can’t see any checks taking place given two metre rules.

      • CDT

        That’s true enough Murky. But fare evasion does seriously need to be tackled in the future though !! AS things start gradually to return to normal.

        Amother great article by the way !!

  11. Chris L

    The agreement that Mayor Khan signed up to specified that travel to and from school would remain free and a method of achieving this should be implemented.

  12. Ben

    Great article, though It isn’t correct to claim that TfL don’t receive central government funding. They get a substantial amount of income from business rates, which in effect is funding from central government: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-are-funded

    • fromthemurkydepths

      Devolution of local tax powers is another big factor here, and one where London is heavily restricted (well, all English cities compared to most of the developed world) even accounting for recent business rate changes. If central govt wants to axe funds it should then permit greater local powers to fund services. Whitehall hate the idea though.

      • Ben

        Agree- London has the business rates levy to pay for Crossrail (only place in England to have used this option), but more options for locally raising revenue would be a good thing

  13. Investment Banker

    Fantastic piece of journalism.

    It’ll be interesting to see when schools are reopened for some primary school children on June 1 (I.e. Year 6) if some children don’t come to school specifically due to the fare implementation. My thoughts are that it’ll be difficult to isolate the reasons (fear of catching coronavirus vs fare increase).

    However, when school returns for Year 10 and Year 12 on June 15, I think we’ll see whether many school children will be able to afford to go to school, with many families struggling to put food on the table/ pay mortgage or rent and make the choice between paying £3 a day (75p per bus journey, 2 buses each way, £15 each week) to send their children to school or save that extra money with limited headway in their cashflow balance. If this continues when school is expected to resume in September, this will surely have to be scrapped as not feasible for the majority of families, especially in these difficult times due to COVID-19, and will widen the skills gap between those that can afford to go to school and those who can’t.

    This power grab by the government (who have been granted the opportunity to do so now, and have been itching to do so under a Labour Mayor administration) is just unnecessary. The biggest issue is that the public has bought into the fact that all of Tfl’s debt burden is based on their lack of financial control, which is purely built on ill-judgement, information asymmetry and in a lot of cases, entrenched racism.

  14. Paul Aherne

    Now we know why they deliberately allowed no fare-checking on buses for so long, only to grab control of transport policy from the Mayor of London and its citizens. They’ve already seen me denied my disabilty FreeedomPass for fourteen months back in 2014/15. Tory scum!

  15. Graham

    Up until lockdown announced Revenue Inspectors were working on the buses checking passes. I had my monthly bus pass checked a few times while travelling to or from work the last time in early March,

    I currently pay £81.50 per month for my bus pass but would be happy to pay a little bit more if it meant TFL could maintain services and make some improvements to bus routes etc in outer London

    • CDT

      Yes I agree TFL needs the fare revenue to help it stay a float financially. I current pay £978.00 per year for my monthly 1-4 bus pass.

      When I reach 60 I would be more than happy to pay £100.00 each year for the 60+ oyster card offered by TFL rather than the current one off charge of £20.00 until I reach state pension age and qualify for a freedom pass.

      At current bus pass rates this would save me £878.00 per year which I would be more than happy with.

      The only problem is I would still need to travel to work in the morning peak before 09:30. As companies do rely on their older workers.

      • Dawn Green

        sadly not everyone would be able to afford £100 every year (as could increase every year thereafter it was £10 to start with) and therefore would have to stay at home esp if they have mobility/breathing problems Hope TFL are not reading these posts although I paid £20 i’d be happy to pay that every year its a godsend Yep you still have to get to work bus train tube dlr whatever is required I remember it cost a fortune

  16. CDT

    I appreciate that Dawn especially for people working part time and on lower income/benefits.

  17. Chris L

    Announcement about Freedom Passes & Oyster 60+ coming soon.

    Might not be as bad as first thought.

    No new restrictions on Disabled Freedom passes.

  18. Chris L

    This will mean that all passengers with an Older Person’s Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photocard or English National Concessionary Scheme pass will not be able to use those passes during morning peak hours in order to help support social distancing on the public transport network and help control the coronavirus.

    From Monday 15 June, changes to the ticketing system will mean these cards are automatically set to be not valid during the morning peak period (04:30 to 09:00) Monday to Friday. They will continue to be valid at all other times on weekdays and all day on weekends and Bank Holidays.

    • Dawn Green

      yes I received email today confirming this 9am as opposed to prev info of 9.30 may help some older workers Now if I win my PIP tribunal I can get a Disabled Freedom Pass yippee rather be out of pain & mobile 🙁

  19. Typical clear as mud announcement, which says nothing about trains and the underground.

    My understanding is there was no restriction on using the ‘freedom’ passes on the bus, BUT you had to wait until 09:30 if you wanted to use the rail network or the underground. What is the position with regard to these?

    • Dawn Green

      From Monday 15 June, customers with a 60+ London Oyster photocard, Older Person’s Freedom Pass or English National Concessionary Scheme pass will not be able to use their card between 04:30 and 09:00 Monday to Friday. This is to enable social distancing on the public transport network and help control the spread of coronavirus. If you have no option other than to use public transport during the morning peak, we recommend that you travel using pay as you go with a contactless card or device or an Oyster card. For more information, please visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares.

      Customers with a Disabled Freedom Pass are unaffected and will, as usual, still be able to travel at all times using their Pass.

      We know that being able to plan your journey is especially important to you. If you do need to travel, it may be helpful to know that we have staff at all Tube, TfL Rail and London Overground stations, and they are here to help should you need advice, information and assistance.

      We operate a Turn-up-and-go service on the London Underground, London Overground and most of TfL Rail. This means you do not have to pre-book assistance to get help at our stations. Everyone is welcome to use the service. Click here for more information.

      To ensure safer journeys for everyone, we are continuing to take measures across our network to enable social distancing of 2 metres, where possible. This means:
      • If a visually impaired person requests customer assistance, underground staff will arrange a special taxi to take them to their destination station
      • We will maintain a two-metre distance when supporting customers with a mobility impairment (for example, by providing manual boarding ramps)
      • In situations where face coverings make communication difficult, our staff will use written messages on paper, whiteboards or mobile devices

      When there are queues outside the station, customers who identify themselves as disabled are allowed to enter the station without queuing.

      Most of our stations are only accepting contactless or Oyster to pay for travel. Some stations are still accepting cash. Click here to find out which stations are still accepting cash

      Please continue to avoid public transport, where possible, to free up the limited space available to those who have no alternative way to travel.

      We thank you again for all your help as we work together to keep everyone safe.

      COPY OF EMAIL FROM TFL re hope this helps buses tube dlr
      National rail/overground has always been 9.30 am

    • Chris L

      From 15th June you cannot use buses, Tubes, DLR, TfL Rail, London Overground and trams between 04:30 and 09:00 on Mondays to Fridays. Free travel at all other times. Main line trains are the only 09:30 restriction on Mondays to Fridays.

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