Val Shawcross: Why Ken and I will reverse Boris' fare hikes


Assembly transport spokesperson on Ken’s Fare Deal

As fares in London shot up again earlier this month – the fourth year of above inflation rises under Boris Johnson – new research showed London has the most expensive transport in the world.

In a comparison of ticket prices across 20 major worldwide cities, London topped the list, with a peak Zone 1-4 single journey costing twice as much as equivalent journeys in New York, Paris and Milan.

Additionally, it was revealed that bus tube and train fares in London now consume over a quarter of take home pay for many Londoners, thanks to the Tory mayor’s fare hikes. These are hikes that have seen bus fares rise by 50 per cent in four years – jumping from 90p in 2008 to £1.35 in 2012, and on the tube weekly Zones 1-2, 1-4 and 1-6 travelcards are all now at least 20 per cent more expensive than in 2008.

An office manager in central London (£25,600) living in Zone 1 or 2 would have to work for three weeks and three days before the cost of their travel was covered

Londoners working in jobs essential to keeping our city and businesses running – from cleaners and nurses, to shop assistants and office managers – are being squeezed hard.

The figures from the House of Commons library showed that a cleaner on the minimum wage (£11,730) would have to pay 27 per cent of their take home pay in order to pay for a weekly zones 1-6 travelcard. A newly qualified nurse working in inner London (£25,411) and living in Zone 4 would have to work for five weeks and a day before they’d paid for their travel.

A shop assistant earning the London Living Wage (£16,013 before tax) would have to pay 21 per cent of their take home pay to be able to afford to pay for a weekly zones 1-6 travelcard. Meanwhile an office manager in central London (£25,600) living in Zone 1 or 2 would have to work for three weeks and three days before the cost of their travel was covered.

It is in our city’s interests that London businesses can draw from the widest pool and attract the best employees. We do not want a city that is unaffordable and that potential employees feel priced out of, a feeling likely to be compounded in the current economic climate of rising living costs and pay freezes.

Add to the equation that childcare in the UK is the most expensive in the world (and is more expensive in London than the rest of the UK) – generally costing around a third of household net income cost – and it is understandable that many Londoners will question whether it is in their financial interest to remain in work.

If the answer is no, businesses risk missing out on talented employees.

Official documents have shown TfL have built up a cash surplus of over £700m. It is my belief and it is the belief of my running mate Ken Livingstone that at a time like this, when ordinary Londoners are struggling to make ends meet, the mayor should be easing this pain through a cut in fares.

That is why, if Labour wins the mayoralty next May we will use this cash surplus to deliver a Fare Deal for London.

Ken’s Fare Deal plan will see fares cut by seven per cent in 2012, frozen for a year in 2013 and then rising by no more than the rate of inflation from 2014 onwards. This seven per cent cut would wipe out Boris Johnson’s 2012 fare increases.

On top of that, we’ll also slash a bus ticket from £1.35 to £1.20 (a saving of 11 per cent). On average, our package will leave Londoners £1,000 better off over the next four years.

That’s £1,000 back in people’s pockets for them to spend to the benefit of London business, boosting the London economy. London, Londoners and London businesses will all be better off under our plans.