It's been a bad week for tube travellers: on Monday and Tuesday we had an assortment of delays caused by union overtime bans and power cuts which led to a couple of thousand passengers becoming more acquainted with the tunnels than they would probably generally enjoy, then yesterday the Jubilee Line was part-suspended again due to emergency engineering works on a cracked rail.
Presumably deciding that things couldn't get much worse, Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that tube fare rises would come into force from January 2011. Unsurprisingly, it's got the blogosphere abuzz with Diamond Geezer and 853 amongst others spelling out exactly what it means for tube travellers and as Annie Mole also notes on her Going Underground blog, the bad news was delivered on a day when the media was otherwise occupied with the government spending review.
The rises of up to 74% are particularly hard on people commuting in from the outskirts of London who will see the Zone 2-6 travelcard abolished in favour of the much pricier Zone 1-6 travelcard which is pretty unfair for those who don't need to visit Zone 1. TfL's press release appeared to be an exercise in obfuscation over the increases, describing them as 'simplification of fares' and lumping the whole lot under the banner of 'RPI + 2%' which drew criticism from Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon who accused the mayor of 'insulting Londoners by burying bad news'.
Whilst few can deny that fare increases are inevitable and the underground is in desperate need of extra cash, especially now that commuters are being inexorably pushed out of their cars and onto public transport, it leaves something of a bad taste when news of the rises come hot on the heels of seemingly ceaseless delays and strikes which cripple London and is delivered in a manner that is deliberately less than straightforward, perhaps in the hope that we would be so busy being outraged at the Tories that we wouldn't notice. Not that we're cynical, of course.