Home Estate Planning Why London’s TfL fare freeze may not be good for passengers

Why London’s TfL fare freeze may not be good for passengers

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The government faced fresh backlash on Sunday as national rail fares rose 4.9 per cent, above the current rate of inflation.

Unions dubbed the increase “outrageous,” while transport campaigners and Labour said the rise was unfair given the current state of Britain’s railway network. Cancellations are at the highest levels in a decade and strikes are still commonplace well over a year after the industrial dispute kicked off.

In London, the story looks different. Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a freeze on Transport for London (TfL)’s fares until 2025, as part of a £123m investment in the capital’s transport services.

He had previously frozen TfL fares between 2016 and 2021 and it is one of the biggest policy levers the Mayor can pull ahead of a looming election.

But is it all it’s cracked up to be? In reality, Khan can’t actually freeze all public transport fares in the capital as many are still set by the government and will rise in line with national rail hikes.

Around 40 per cent of journeys on London public transport will still be more expensive despite the intervention, according to the Evening Standard.

Khan’s freeze means pay as you go trips on the London Underground, buses, the Overground and DLR will stay the same until March 2025.

However, the cap on multiple pay as you go journeys has increased, meaning Londoners could actually end up paying out more.

Moreover, travelcards and their associated daily and weekly caps, which are set in agreement with train operators under government regulation, will rise in line with the national increase of 4.9 per cent.

Some TfL fares, mainly on services outside of Zone 6 which are required to align with nationwide changes under historical government agreements, will also not be frozen.

Roger Blake, Vice Chair of the campaign group Railfuture’s London and South East branch said: “Most people will appreciate the freeze on fares of which the mayor has control, but they will nevertheless be affected by some fares which are part of the national set up.”

Blake noted there is “always the question” with any fare freeze over the amount of money lost and what else it could have been spent on, “because once you have frozen you do not get it back.”

“When you tot up the amount of money the Treasury has foregone, and in London how much TfL has foregone, then there perhaps should be a public debate about what is more important,” he told City A.M.

“Is it more important to take measures which will widely be perceived as addressing the cost of living crisis? Or actually is that just a short-term palliative and what we should really be doing is saying, well the cost of running services doesn’t get cheaper and in addition, maybe we want to continue to invest in more and better services.”

“Is it more important to take measures which will widely be perceived as addressing the cost of living crisis or is that actually just a short term palliative?”

Roger Blake – Railfuture

A report by Central London Forward recently warned of the “escalating risks of inaction” if the Bakerloo Line’s more than 50-year-old rolling stock is not replaced soon, including a potential “critical failure.”

The Central Line’s trains are also more than three decades old and in both instances, an inability to replace the fleets has resulted in higher cancellations and delays.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The Mayor makes no apology for freezing TfL fares, putting money back into people’s pockets and making public transport more affordable for millions of Londoners. It’s a win-win for Londoners during the cost-of-living crisis, while supporting London’s businesses.

“Even more people will now benefit compared to the previous fares freeze, as record numbers of people are now using pay as you go as an alternative to travel cards, with 80 per cent of Tube journeys and 74 per cent of bus journeys now made using pay as you go – meaning the majority of passengers will benefit.

“The Mayor only has power to set fares on TfL services and, while most of the fares he controls have been frozen, there are some TfL fares he had no choice but to increase, which have to align with national rail fare changes.”

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