Boris Johnson used a visit to Bermondsey this morning to confirm that London’s Freedom Pass holders will be able to benefit from free travel on the capital’s transport network 24 hours a day from 2nd January.
The Freedom Pass scheme is managed and funded by London Councils, a cross-party body which represents the capital’s 33 boroughs and oversees a number of pan-London services including the Taxicard concession and the adjudication service for appeals against parking fines.
London Councils Chairman, Councillor Merrick Cockell, accompanied the Mayor on a visit to a Bermondsey day centre where they met pensioners who would benefit from today’s announcement.
The extension of the Freedom Pass operating hours was a key manifesto promise for both Mayor Johnson and Ken Livingstone although Johnson’s campaign team scored an own-goal when they published a statement of endorsement from former Chair of London TravelWatch Brian Cooke describing the policy as a “mad idea”.
Speaking this morning Mr Johnson said: “I am delighted that elderly Freedom Pass holders will be able to use this important scheme to get to early morning hospital or other appointments that most Londoners would take for granted. That is why during the election campaign I promised elderly pass holders would no longer have to wait until well after breakfast to catch the bus.”
Councillor Cockell said the scheme was “a wonderful example of boroughs working together to improve the lives of their local communities.”
At Mayor’s Question Time on Wednesday Johnson confirmed the costs of the extended scheme would have to be met by local councils and that pass holders will not be able to use network rail services before 9.30.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said: “This is a double whammy for Freedom Pass holders in London. Not only will they not be able to use their passes on the rail network before 9.30am, but they face the prospect of higher council tax bills because Boris expects the Boroughs to bear all the costs of a 24 hour freedom pass.”
“This is effectively a duff Christmas present from the Mayor, one with the parts missing and no batteries in it! The Mayor must live up to his promise and fully fund the 24 hour Freedom Pass that he promised.”
A Spokesperson for Mr Johnson told MayorWatch: “Caroline Pidgeon is right to say that we are delivering a Freedom Pass double whammy – Not only can pensioners now make their ealry morning doctors appointments without the worry of paying for travel, they also no longer have to face the indignity of standing at a bus stop waiting not for a bus, but for the clock to tick past 9:30. We are truly delivering a Freedom Pass that lives up to its name.
“As for funding the pass, it seems completely logical that London’s boroughs, the Mayor, and Transport for London, should work together to deliver this benefit that elderly Londoners clearly deserve and want. I’m proud that our approach of working with the boroughs, in true partnership, is being demonstrated on this issue.
“This is a real Christmas present for all London’s pensioners, and I’m sure they will be truly flabbergasted to hear that Caroline Pidgeon opposes it.”
The Spokesperson added: ”Miss Pidgeon appears to miss the point that the train operating companies are private entities and, although we are urging them to roll out this extension to their services, we are not prepared to achieve this at any cost. We will be leading by example and granting 24 hour access for freedom pass holders on all TfL-run services (buses, trams, tubes, DLR, and London Overground rail), and are negotiating hard to get the train operators on board as well. “