The Fares Penalty Paid By Low Income Londoners

tube_240114The poorest Londoners are paying the highest travel fares, because they can’t afford to take advantage of longer, discounted travelcards that need a larger initial outlay, says a report from London’s Labour party.

This is obvious when you stop and think about it, but since we doubt many of us have actually stopped and thought about it, we’ll go on. An annual zone 1-4 travelcard costs £1,800. Twelve monthly zone 1-4 travelcards cost £2,073.60, and 52 weekly zone 1-4 travelcards cost £2,340. Even taking into account that most people take about a month each year as holiday (and assuming people spend that holiday not leaving the house), that still puts people who don’t have the means for that initial bulk purchase or access to season ticket loans at a significant loss.

Before we get into the world of total conjecture, Labour quotes some interesting Transport for London figures. 87% of weekly travelcards are bought by people earning under £30k pa; buying weekly travelcards has added around £1.06 per journey since 2009 compared to buying an annual ticket. Just 20% of tube users earn more than £30k a year.

There’s a separate cost of living issue when it comes to buses. 51% of bus users earn less than £20k pa and 34% earn less than £15k pa. From being £11 or less between 2000 and 2005, a seven day bus pass now costs £20.20.

Labour makes various suggestions about making the fares burden easier on people: lower fare rises, brilliant suggestions that often get floated but never seem to go anywhere like one hour bus tickets, part time travelcards, ‘early bird’ fares and loyalty discounts for PAYG users. But none of these will combat the issue that the wealthier have access to cheaper travel. We don’t think those discounts should be taken away, but perhaps more effort should be taken by TfL to ensure everyone has access to them. Oh, and maybe bring down bus fares.

Photo by Kentaro Tsuda from the Londonist Flickr pool

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  • Tracey

    Good to see you highlight this problem. It does pretty much happen across the board though e.g being able to buy groceries cheaper in bulk, getting cheaper broadband because you can afford to pay up front

    • Rachel Holdsworth

      Yes! It’s always the way isn’t it? If you have money you get to keep more of it.

      • londona729

        That’s why we have the saying ‘ the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’ not always true but has been so in recent years….

  • Jon Millwood

    Both employers I have worked at since moving to London will loan the money for an annual travelcard or season ticket. I then repay over 10 months, the monthly cost only being around £5 more than a monthly travelcard meaning I almost get 2 months free.
    I think a lot of people don’t even realise their employers offer this perk.

    • Nigel Whitfield

      But the people at the bottom of the jobs market are probably more likely to be in jobs where those perks aren’t available. While office workers can often get the free loan, I rather suspect their contract cleaners don’t have one on offer.

  • Beth Williams

    Tube trains are always very empty in the early morning period. A discounted ticket price for travel before 7.00am would be useful.

    • Amous

      What trains do you travel on? The first train or two on pretty much every Tube line (except the W&C) is standing room only!

      • londona729

        Maybe Beth means on weekends?

  • andybrice

    I’m starting to think practically nothing about our travel fares makes any sense. Services are being priced like coaches or airlines; as if it’s a free market where operators are competing for our custom; when actually they’re local monopolies.

    Why discount long-term travel cards and advance tickets at everyone else’s expense? They’re not going to run more or fewer trains depending on demand.

    Why discount return tickets at the expense of singles? This makes sense when your aim is to reward customers for brand loyalty. It achieves nothing when they have no choice in what service they return via.

    • londona729

      The fare system has always meant that people committing to a season ticket saved money compared to someone who buys singles.

      • andybrice

        But why? In a free market, upfront subscription would be to raise cash sooner and keep your customers locked in longer. But what does that achieve in a monopoly public service?

        • londona729

          The same benefits of guaranteed income*.Very important for the tube when the weekend service is very poor and TfL loses a lot of PAYG revenue as people use alternative routes.

          * TfL gets to keep the money even if the holder dies,leaves London, loses job and/or travels much less than they originally planned, etc

          There’s virtually no downside to people having travelcards/season tickets over PAYG/CPC

  • Kevin

    Its not a problem, its common sense. No more a “problem” than 6 tins of beans as a multi pack are cheaper than six individually.

  • Nigel Whitfield

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown of use of buses by class, but my gut feeling is that very often buses are an important means of transport for many in poorer parts of town. They either don’t have the good tube connections, or they have to work anti social hours, which makes the tube impractical.

    In Hackney, for instance, the bus service is essential, and we have lot of people on low incomes. With the massive hikes in bus fares (not to mention the scrapping of certain travel cards), many bus users have been hit very hard over recent years.