Labour's Shadow London Minister Sadiq Khan has called on the Mayor to freeze travel fares at the rate of inflation for 2014.
The recent news that commuters would face fare increases of 4.1% next year has sparked the usual row about transport and the cost of living. It won't come as a surprise to anyone who read TfL's 10-year plan last December which forecast above-inflation fare increases for the next 10 years but in the same week as TfL's no-longer-secret plan to close all ticket offices it puts the Mayor in the line of fire again. Khan said:
"London fares are now the most expensive in the world. Since Boris became Mayor, the cost of a single bus journey has increased by 56% and the price of a zone 1-6 travel card has increased by £440 a year."
And he's right. Making public transport affordable is a key factor in any transport policy and certainly key to TfL's objective of reducing the amount of traffic on the roads. But London's public transport is dangerously close to being unaffordable for many low-paid workers. In fact, we pointed out back in February that in some circumstances (car sharing, free parking), it's still cheaper to drive in than commute by rail or tube.
Not everyone agrees with Khan though — MayorWatch thinks Labour have erred in opposing the plans, saying that the party's insistence on holding Boris to his 2008 manifesto pledge means 'they’re effectively saying he was right to oppose Ken Livingstone’s 2007 plan to close the ticket offices.'
We don't have to look too far for areas where it's probably fair to say that money could have been better spent. Boris's unfortunate penchant for pricey transport projects: the recent revelation that more than 300 TfL staff earn over £100K; the abysmally poor sponsorship deals; the staff expenses. All of which hand a loaded gun to Boris's opposition and do nothing to reassure Londoners that everything possible is being done to keep fares low.
A decision on London fares in 2014 will be made by the Mayor later this year. We don't think they'll go down or even stay the same but who knows? Perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised*.
For anyone wanting to know what the Shadow London Minister does, see here for our recent chat with Sadiq Khan. You can read the full text of his Better London Transport campaign speech at the New Statesman. The petition against Boris Johnson's cuts to transport and fare increases is at www.thegreattorytrainrobbery.co.uk.
Photo by worldoflard in the Londonist Flickr pool.