Simple changes like a one hour bus ticket would make a world of difference to Londoners
Contrary to popular belief buses remain the most popular mode of transport in London with the bus network carrying more passengers each day than all other types of transport in the capital put together.
Despite the millions of Londoners piling onto the tube every day it is the bus network which carries by far the majority of strain for keeping the capital moving, with demand increasing every day.
Pair the vast demand placed upon the bus network with the fact that areas without tube links often have higher deprivation and more low income families and the case for investment is clear.
Instead of investing the current Mayor, Boris Johnson, has hiked bus fares by 47 per cent since coming to power, a rise that significantly outstrips tube price increases.
As a result of these rises a single pay as you go bus fare has leaped from 90p in 2008 to £1.50 in 2015. This is a particular problem if your workplace or local shops are more than a single bus route away. Unlike the tube where you can change lines as many times as you like, every time you change bus you pay all over again, until you hit the PAYG ‘cap’.
So imagine a low income family, living in outer South London and having to travel into central London and back every day for work. Maybe you have to choose to wait for the bus that goes all the way to your job rather than hopping on the first bus that comes but which means you’d have to change and spend more…may be you need to get three buses each way as there is no tube, paying more for a slower and often more overcrowded journey. With the timed ticket you could pay once in each direction and come in well below the cap.
That’s why Sadiq Khan’s proposal to introduce a single one hour bus ticket, allowing you to change as many times as you like, would make a difference.
An innovation like this could save Londoners huge amounts on the 80 million pay-as-you-go journeys that take place within an hour of a previous journey, helping the part-time, irregular and casual workers who are suffering most from the Mayor’s year-on-year fare rises.
Last year, I called for a fairer system for part-time workers. While the lower daily cap has moved us a step closer to this, we need to remain vigilant and creative if we are to ensure all Londoners are able to benefit from tickets which match their needs. A one hour bus ticket ticks that box, it works in many major cities on the continent, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work in the capital.
Given the strong link between highly dense neighbourhoods with a low access to the transport network and deprivation it’s not just about fairness it’s about social justice. In essence, your community is more likely to be deprived the further away you live from a train or tube station, charging those people more to link to better transport hubs is clearly unjust.
A one hour bus ticket is a major way of making the bus network more accessible but we also need to see investment.
From 2000-2012, mostly under the stewardship of the previous Mayor, the number of bus ‘kilometres’ run by TfL increased by 38 per cent to 490 million, to serve a rapidly growing population and increasing demand for bus services.
By contrast for the period 2012-2020, under Boris Johnson’s plans Transport for London (TfL) will only increase services by 4 per cent, an average of 0.5 per cent a year. This despite the population in London expected to grow by over 1.2 million – meaning a growth in demand for buses of around 1.3 per cent per year.
It may not be super sexy but smart, simple changes like a one hour bus ticket would make a world of difference to many ordinary Londoners in a way which Boris Johnson’s love of big ticket vanity projects like the Thames Cable Car has never.
Val Shawcross AM is Labour’s London Assembly Transport Spokesperson. Follow her on Twitter