- I have called on the Mayor to scrap his 2.5% fare rise to save the average commuter £56 a year on a 1-6 Annual Travelcard.
- This fare freeze can be funded without cuts to other areas through the use of £98m of expected underspends and additional TfL fares income.
- Since 2008, fares have risen over 40% with 76% of Londoners now saying fares are ‘too high’.
With the majority of Londoners returning to work this week, Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE has called on the Mayor of London to scrap his latest fares hike after a new report found that 76% of Londoners now believe fares are “too high”. The report, ‘The case for a Fare Freeze’ found that the 40% increase in fares under Boris Johnson has left many Londoners struggling to cope with the cost of commuting. Jennette Arnold OBE has urged the Mayor to use expected TfL underspends and additional income to reverse this year’s 2.5% fare increase and freeze fares at 2014 levels.
The call comes as Londoners returning to work after the holiday season face an average 2.5% increase in their commuting costs. Jennette Arnold OBE said that after seven years of increases under Boris Johnson and with fare growth outstripping wages the Mayor would be failing Londoners who are struggling to cope with the cost of commuting if he did not reverse the rise and cap fares at 2014 levels. The move could be funded, Ms. Arnold said, by utilising £98m of the £309m in better-than-expected fare income and TfL underspends estimated to be accumulated in 2015/16. In the Mayor’s first five budgets, TfL underestimated fares income and overestimated operating costs; expenditure was £1,069m (3.69%) less than expected and income from fares £235m (1.36%) more than expected. Assuming this trend continues there would be more than enough unallocated funding in 2015/16 to freeze fares at 2014 levels.
A survey of 1,219 Londoners carried out for the report found that 76% of Londoners now think the cost of travel in the capital is too high. People from Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest who responded to the survey said:
Woman from Hackney, aged 50-59:
“I am a lecturer, part-time, hourly paid, and my pay has not been increased for the last five years. I am finding travel takes up an increasing proportion of my income.”
Man from Islington, aged 40-49:
“I travel around Europe. London Underground is the most expensive and in comparison with other countries gives the worst value for money. Try travelling from Tufnell Park in the morning rush hour. Basically, if we could replace people with rabbits they [TfL] would be liable for animal cruelty!!”
Woman from Waltham Forest, aged 30-39:
“I have lived in London since I was born here, and I feel that I pay a higher proportion of my income on transport now than I ever have before. I often take the bus rather than the tube because the tube is too expensive, and I think that daily and weekly travelcards are a lot of money.”
For seven years under Boris Johnson fare increases have outstripped wage growth forcing commuters to spend more of their pay-cheque travelling to work.
The Mayor’s decision to raise fares for the seventh year running will put even more pressure on Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest residents struggling to cope with the cost of commuting. With 76% of Londoners believing fares are too high, a freeze for 2015 would give them a much needed break from the annual rise in fares.
Whilst money is tight, I do not believe the answer is to take more from Londoners’ pockets – especially when TfL is expected to be sitting on millions in underspends and additional fares income.
In 2016 London will elect a new Mayor who will have the opportunity to map out a four year plan for their fares strategy for their term of office. Until then a fares freeze this year would give Londoners some much needed respite from rising travel costs without harming the network’s upgrade and expansion plans.
Since 2008, when the current Mayor came to power, tube passengers have seen fares rise by 37%; bus passengers by 47%. On average fares are up 40% since 2008.
Freezing Fares at 2014 levels would cost TfL £98 million in forgone revenue. This could be paid for by utilising £98m of the £309m expected to accumulate from better-than-expected fares income and TfL underspends in 2015/16. TfL consistently overestimates its operating expenditure and underestimates its income from fares. In the Mayor’s first five budgets, expenditure has been £1,069m (3.69%) less than expected & income from fares has been £235m (1.36%) more than expected. On this basis we calculate that TfL will underspend by up to 246m this year with additional fares income of up to £63m. This would leave up to £309m which could be used to pay for a year-long fare freeze that will help Londoners, particularly those on lower incomes, make ends meet in 2015, without hitting its capital expenditure or reserves.
For the report 1,219 Londoners were surveyed asking whether they thought fares were ‘too high’, ‘about right’ or ‘too low’. 924 (76%) said too high, 289 (24%) said about right and only 6 (0.5%) said too low.
The full report, The case for a Fares Freeze, is available here.