Children under 11 are to be allowed to travel for free on National Rail services thanks to a new deal struck between Mayor Boris Johnson and train operators.
Under 11 year olds can already travel for free on Tubes, buses and trams as well as the DLR, London Overground and other rail services operated by Transport for London.
However until now they’ve been unable to enjoy the same concession on National Rail services, a state of affairs the London Assembly has previously said financially disadvantages families whose closest transport link is outside the TfL network.
Mr Johnson’s deal with the rail firms means that from 2 January all National Rail services in London will be free to under 11’s who are carrying a Zip photocard.
The mayor has also announced that single bus fares and all pay as you go single Tube fares, apart from Zone 1 only and Zone 1-2 off-peak fares which will increase from £2.30 to £2, are to be frozen at their current levels and that Travelcards will rise by “slightly less than one per cent”.
Mr Johnson said: “I’m delighted that we’re able to yet again freeze overall fares in real terms for our passengers.
“It’s the third year in a row that we’ve been able to offer this great deal, allowing us to keep the cost of travel down while continuing our vital programme to modernise the network.
He added that the deal with train operators, which will cost TfL £500,000 per year, would help “hundreds of thousands” of households and remove “fares confusion” for families wanting to travel in the capital.
Caroline Pidgeon AM, the Liberal Democrat’s London Assembly transport spokesperson, has welcomed the extension of free travel to the trains and praised the mayor for “ending a long standing grievance for children living in South London.”
“Under 11s already get free travel on the TfL network but given that there are fewer tube lines in South London, children living South of the river have missed out for too long.”
However she said the overall fares package lacked “ambition” and had failed to tackle the needs of low paid workers who travel out of peak hours and those who need to switch buses to complete their journey.
The AM, who is seeking to replace Mr Johnson as mayor next year, has previously pledged to introduce one-hour bus tickets allowing passengers to switch at no cost and lower ‘early bird’ fares for Tube passengers who travel outside peak morning hours.
Labour’s transport spokesperson, Val Shawcross AM, also welcomed the extension of free travel to the trains, saying it would “make a world of difference to families”.
However she criticised the mayor for the increases in his new fares package and claimed commuters “will be left bewildered as to why they have seen their fares rise year after year whilst there has been so little investment in the transport projects that London actually needs”.
Green Party AM Darren Johnson commented: “For some time I have been urging the Mayor to persuade train operators in south London to roll out free travel for under 11s so I am very pleased this will now happen.
“Ultimately all suburban rail routes in Greater London need to come under control of the Mayor and TfL and I will carry on making that case. But this step will at least clear up confusion around ticketing and benefit London families in the meantime.”