Clive Efford, Labour MP for Eltham, looks at the impact of Boris Johnson's massive fare rises on London.
Clive Efford MP (Labour, Eltham) looks at the impact of the New Year fare increases on the capital
The fare increases imposed from the beginning of the New Year by Boris Johnson and George Osborne are a latter-day train robbery where the long suffering Londoner has no choice other than to pay up or else. It is not a gun that is being used to force them to pay, but the need to get to work. Increases to fares of this magnitude are an indirect tax on jobs in London.
While the Mayor fritters away up to £70 million of annual income by cutting the western extension of the Congestion Charge Zone the rest of London is given the choice: give up your job in central London or pay the Tory fare increases.
Over 90 per cent of people who work in the City of London arrive there each working day by public transport. This figure is more than 70 per cent for Central London overall; people have no alternatives other than to use public transport for their daily commute to get to work.
Commuters in outer London are being hit especially hard with an annual zone 1-6 Travelcard up 13 per cent from £1,784 to £2,016 and a weekly zone 1-4 Travelcard costing an extra £249.46 a year.
Like many parts of London my constituency does not have a single tube station – but don’t let that make you think that my constituents are immune from steep Conservative fares rises this week. The cost of a return journey travelling from Eltham in my constituency to London Bridge is up ten per cent from £6.20 to £6.80.
An annual rail season ticket from Erith to Cannon Street or London Bridge is up from £1,448 to £1,632 a year or 12.7 per cent. Bus fares are also up; a single bus fare by Oyster now costs £1.30, an increase of 44 per cent in just three years and a weekly bus pass is up by 7 per cent this week to £17.80.
On top of the fare rises we are also getting less leadership on transport from Boris Johnson. In December snow brought much of south east London to a standstill and the Mayor failed to act, while the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, admitted that he had not even spoken to Boris Johnson about the gridlock on the roads and rail.
The Secretary of State for Transport has so far failed to answer my questions seeking details of his contacts with rail companies and the Mayor during the recent cold weather.
Following continuing delays and frustration for commuters Mr Hammond agreed a major increase in season ticket fares of 12.8 per cent on Southeastern rail services in 2011; no lack of contact there. While fares are up punctuality targets are missed, the latest figures from mid-November to mid-December show it achieved only 68 per cent, missing its 85 per cent punctuality target.
Yet it has only avoided having to compensate season ticket holders for its poor service because it operated a series of emergency timetables during the snow and bad weather which meant it did not have to pay out for cancelled services – and millions of Londoners who rely on the tube have been hit in the pocket by rising fares, the highest rises for those in Outer London.
What our Tory Mayor and this Tory-led government lack is an understanding of how London ticks. The ideology behind these increases cannot be put down to the financial crisis alone; this is the third successive year that Boris Johnson has imposed exceptionally high fare increases on Londoners. As soon as George Osborne took up office he did the exact same thing and imposed rises of inflation plus three per cent, with many fares going up by more than the average.
We should all remember that Boris’s first major decision as Mayor was to cut six major infrastructure projects, planned not only to address future transport needs, but also generate important job opportunities across our city. Again, George Osborne mirrored this at the first opportunity and announced a 21 per cent cut in funding for London’s transport system totalling £2.1 billion. Our Mayor called this a good deal for London.
For further evidence of the combined mindset of the Tory-led government and the Tory-led City Hall we only need to examine where their decisions have the hardest impact. Fare rises, cuts to services and investment and increases in VAT hit those on low and moderate incomes the hardest. These are the very people that make our city work.
It is extraordinary that we are told by this government that we cannot tax bankers too hard because they will go elsewhere and we will lose jobs, but these same politicians will impose an effective tax on the jobs of ordinary Londoners forced to pay up or stay out of town.
This week Labour launched a campaign – Unfare – against these fare rises, not because we oppose any increase, but because we oppose the ideology that chooses to raise them far higher than is necessary, far beyond what is in the best interests of London and its people. London needs a Mayor and a government that understands what makes it work – in every sense.
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