Axing of free children fares in London delayed to 2021
Plans to make children pay for bus trips in London have been delayed until spring 2021.
Various dates have been mooted then pushed back, with plans for fares to be paid from October 2020 now dropped.
However, bigger problems are on the near horizon as TfL face another cash squeeze in coming weeks as bailout money runs out. Ridership has been slightly higher and £30 million more income has been received – but in the context of a fall of billions more is needed to keep buses moving and trains running.
London’s transport network is far more reliant on fare income than most other major world cities. The pandemic saw a 95 per cent reduction in fares, and thus decimated income.
London’s transport network sees 72 per cent of income from fares, compared to 38 per cent in New York and 38 per cent in Paris – to give just two examples. More can be seen below:
One major factor in this is a cut to £700 million annual funding from central Government made by George Osborne in 2015.
Earlier this year TfL were hours away from having to enact an emergency measure that would have reduced public transport to very few services across the capital. They were hours away from having to enact Section 114 by law – which would see the majority of services immediately stop.
Central Government bailed out private rail operators and bus companies across the UK long before the crunch point London was forced into. That now looks like it could be repeated by Whitehall in coming weeks.
When central Government did agree to fund services very late in the day back in May, Westminster stipulated that the congestion charge must increase in price and hours, and measures such as Low Neighbourhood Transport schemes be adopted.
Regardless of views about these policies – and indeed the Mayor’s view – TfL is taking the flack from many despite it being a Westminster-derived measure – as shown in documents subsequently released after bailout negotiations concluded.
It is now feared that London’s transport will see continual short term bailouts resulting in little long term planning and numerous political games for the next year – at least.