Tube and bus fares are under scrutiny as the mayoral race enters the electoral new year.
Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick has outlined three policies which he believes will make 'fares fairer' (let's face it, Ken was never going to be the only one to use the fair/fare line). A one-hour bus ticket which would allow users to hop off and on as many times as they like within an hour, early bird fares that would mean commuters using public transport before the morning rush hour would pay less and have the added benefit of reducing that horrid morning crush, and part-time travelcards for less-frequent travellers. The latter sounds rather like the existing PAYG system to us.
Meanwhile, current City Hall incumbent Boris Johnson has announced that he's also exploring the early bird option though apparently won't be so keen 'if it jeopardises investment in the system or penalises the taxpayer in any way' according to a City Hall source. The original forecast of 7% increases announced last year turned into a 6% reality this month.
Both candidates say Ken Livingstone's proposal to cut fares by 7% is 'unrealistic' while Green Party candidate Jenny Jones said last December that she was pleased fares were being discussed but had concerns about the sustainability of Ken's promise.
Both Paddick's and Johnson's objective appears to be the lower-earning Londoner, a stance supported by Transport Committee leader and Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon:
"London's economy is reliant on an underpaid army of workers, from cleaners to security staff, who get to work before most people have even got out of bed. Now more than ever London's lowest paid workers need a helping hand and one small step would be to introduce lower fares for people who travel to work before the rush hour starts. Discounted fares for journeys that end before 7.30 would not cost a fortune, but would make a dramatic change to the wallets and purses of London's lowest paid."
While commuters would welcome some downward adjustment of fares in these times of austerity, peak travellers already pay a premium to use public transport and presumably aren't using it in the rush hour for fun. Jones, Livingstone and Paddick all make much of fare increases during Johnson's term, yet we put together a handy guide last year of rises since 2000 which demonstrates that Johnson isn't the only one to bump up travelling costs. Livingstone's claim that there's a gargantuan surplus of cash sloshing around in TfL's coffers was also challenged (albeit by the opposition).
Brian Paddick put his campaign to the commuting public this morning along with Caroline Pidgeon at Victoria station.