This is not a ‘fares freeze’, Boris. Very high fares will remain very high fares

The mayor is doing nothing to make the eye-wateringly expensive cost of public transport more affordable to ordinary Londoners.

Green Party member of the London Assembly Darren Johnson responds to the announcement by the mayor that there will be a ‘real terms freeze’ in next year’s bus and Tube fares.

Yes Boris, fares in London are ‘unbelievably expensive’, especially if you live in outer London and commute in to work. Even by holding the increase for some users to the rate of inflation, very high fares will still remain very high fares.

It’s also worth noting that over half of paying passengers use travel cards, which will be going up above inflation. The mayor will be doing nothing to make the eye-wateringly expensive cost of public transport more affordable to ordinary Londoners.

The mayor’s own predictions for the next decade are for jobs to be increasingly within central London and for the big growth in population to be in outer London. Londoners are going to be locked into an expensive and congested commute. Neither your journey, nor its impact on your bank balance is going to be good for your sense of happiness.

The impact of high fares on the poorest is already bad. A fares increase in line with inflation is not a fares freeze if you are on the minimum wage, which has risen below the rate of inflation (again). 175,000 Londoners earn less than £6.75/hr, which is marginally more than the minimum wage. There is no discount for the army of cleaners packing out the pre-dawn buses trundling into central London from the suburbs.

The poorest Londoners have to make a calculation about where they can afford to live, where they can find work and how much of their wages will go on the journey between home and employment.

The Mayor claims that he can only make the big investments in transport if he keeps raising the fares to pay for it. And yet it is the massive cuts to Transport for London’s operating grant which account for a lot of the increase, as the government shifts the burden from taxpayers onto fare payers.

Despite the concessionary fares, especially for older people and school students, this is still a regressive move, as the banker with the million pound bonus pays the same tube fare as a teaching assistant.

My belief is that the mayor’s response to falling levels of grant should be to reduce fares by shifting the burden away from public transport users and towards the motorist. I accept that not everyone owning a car is well off, but on the whole it would benefit the lowest pay, especially if we started by lowering bus fares.

By failing to take action to reduce the cost of public transport, the mayor is failing to assist the downward trend in car usage which he promised in his grand vision for the city. According to the latest Travel in London report, the capital’s population increased by 12 per cent in the last decade, but car driver trips decreased by 13 per cent over the same period. Even the total number of cars owned in London has declined.

The evidence is clear – more and more Londoners are leaving their cars behind.

A flexible and intelligent form of pay-as-you-go driving would solve both of London’s problems. You could use it to free up space on specific roads for buses and cyclists to dominate. You could also use it to bring down fares whilst maintaining a high level of investment in public transport.

It was included in the mayor’s transport strategy because it makes total sense. What we now need is to build the political consensus which turns it into a reality.

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