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New report calls for Fares Freeze as commuters face seventh year of fare rises under Boris Johnson

  • New report from Val Shawcross AM calls for Mayor to scrap 2.5% fare rise to save the average commuter £56 a year on a 1-6 Annual Travelcard
  • Fare freeze can be funded without cuts to other areas through 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’

On the day the majority of the capital return to work, Labour London Assembly Member Val Shawcross has called on the Mayor of London to scrap his latest fares hike after a new report out today 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. In it Ms Shawcross urges 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 on their commuting costs. Ms Shawcross 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 Shawcross found, by utilising £98m of the £309m in better than expected fare income and TfL underspends she estimates will 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.

The report also called on the Mayor to take specific action to protect bus passengers after what Ms Shawcross described as "years of pay more get less" service on the bus network with disproportionate fare rises yet flat-lining investment.

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. One woman from Barnet who responded to the survey said that fare "increases are making living and working in London nearly impossible. People’s salaries hardly cover this any more!” with another from Newham saying “I have to assist my son all the time to buy his weekly bus pass as his wages are too small to purchase a bus pass and buy food.”

London Assembly Labour Group Transport Spokesperson, Val Shawcross AM, said:

"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 Londoners 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 an the opportunity to map out a four year plan 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."

ENDS

Notes

-       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 Val Shawcross AM surveyed 1,219 Londoners 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.

-       Val Shawcross’ report, The case for a Fares Freeze, is available here.

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