How's this for revolutionary thinking: the Green Party is proposing abolishing fare zones across London, for one flat fare, wherever you want to travel.
At the moment, someone living in zone 6 pays £844 more a year to travel into the centre of London than someone living in zone 3 — assuming that person can afford the initial outlay for an annual travelcard. (If you pay monthly the difference rises to £972 a year.) The Greens, and mayoral candidate Sian Berry, think that's not fair, particularly given that the housing crisis is increasingly pushing the low paid into outer London. So they want to level the playing field.
The plan would be implemented in stages. In 2017, zone 4 would merge with zone 3, and zone 6 with zone 5, creating a four zone structure with fares based on the lower rate. Over the next eight years, outer London fares would be held down as inner London fares rise to meet them. By around 2025, the party believes it would be able to make London one fare zone.
They also propose a ticket that lets you interchange between all types of transport for one hour, abolishing the problem of getting charged every time you switch between the tube, train or bus. A one hour bus ticket is possible within a year, they say; a full system ticket would take longer. The Greens also propose daily Pay As You Go caps of one-twentieth the price of a monthly travelcard, so part-time workers aren't penalised. And in a move that makes a lot of sense, they would want to make paying with Oyster and contactless possible on all forms of transport — including cycle hire, taxis, river boats and car clubs.
What of the cost? The Greens calculate that the changes would reduce Transport for London's fares revenue by 10% by 2025. We've already scoffed at Sadiq Khan's plans to freeze fares on the basis that TfL is losing millions from its annual government grant. However, where Labour will only say they'll find the money through "efficiency savings" (very woolly), the Greens have come up with a series of proposals to meet the funding gap:
- demand for a share of the new Road Fund and a share of fuel duty
- increase the Congestion Charge (and also make the system smarter so it rewards people who drive outside busy times)
- a levy on workplace parking spaces
- revised Ultra Low Emission Zone.
In effect, they plan to shift some of the burden from fare payers (currently 40% of TfL's income) to car users (Congestion Charge accounts for less than 3% of TfL's income).
Zones have been abolished before, of course, on buses in 2004. The question is: will inner London — typically where Greens are strongest — go for this change? The party says everyone will benefit from the one hour ticket, but say they want to concentrate fare reductions where the need is greatest. Sian Berry said:
A Green Mayor and Assembly Members will help level the playing field and make transport fairer and more equal for Londoners. It’s not fair that you have to pay more to change onto the tube from the national rail services that people in south London rely upon, or that if you need to take two buses to work you have to pay twice for your journey.
And it's not fair that people who work part time pay more per day to get to work than people with full-time jobs. It's not fair that people in outer London pay so much more to get to work in the centre of the city — especially as it's also easier for people in the centre of town to use even cheaper or free alternatives such as hire bikes, cycling or walking.