The thinking behind the idea seems to be that some bus users are disadvantaged by having to pay for more than one bus to get to their destination.
Last April Boris’s spokesperson told me:
“A one hour bus pass has been suggested several times previously but the Mayor does not plan to introduce it in London. This is because it would be an extremely complex and expensive exercise, that would only benefit a small number of passengers as the majority of bus users in London pay for journeys using pre-paid season tickets or concessionary passes.
And approximately thirty three per cent of journeys are made free of charge using Freedom, income support, zip or veterans passes. To introduce a time limited pass would also mean TfL having to cover the expense of doing so by either increasing fares or seeking additional funding from elsewhere.”
Finding little to disagree with in that response I confess I didn’t pay the issue much more attention until December’s circulation of Boris’s latest rejection.
Questioning the premise behind the idea, I got a fairly unseasonal bashing from some Twitter followers who clearly favour the scheme. Admittedly Twitter isn’t the best place to debate complex policies but I’m still unclear which genuinely needy group supporters see as the main beneficiaries of the scheme.
Subsidised travel schemes for pensioners, low income households and disabled people are hopefully something we all agree are necessary but without any means testing I can’t see how we’d avoid people on lower salaries who only need to get one bus from subsidising better paid travellers who get two or more buses. Before we further increase the cost of subsidised travel surely we need to ensure fare payers are only helping those in genuine need?
[UPDATE: A couple of people have been in touch questioning the above paragraph, so here’s an attempt to clarify my meaning:
Let’s say person A earns £12k a year and takes one bus while person B, who earns considerably more, takes 2 buses. Under the suggested one-hour ticket scheme person B pays no more for their two bus rides than person A pays one.
I can see how that sounds nice – everyone’s bus journey suddenly costs the same – but the cost of the second journey has to be met from somewhere and the most likely source is yet another increase on everyone’s bus fare (though some supporters optimistically suggest an increase in bus ridership raise enough revenue to cover any losses.)
Although this would in effect see person B contributing to the cost of their second bus journey, it also sees our less affluent person A contributing to the cost of person B’s second bus journey. To me that smacks of unfairness.]
There could even be health implications in reducing the price of some people’s two-bus journeys. If the distance between the starting point of a journey and the second bus route is walkable we should be encouraging people to take this option wherever possible.
Anyhow, it seems the LibDems aren’t going to let the idea drop any time soon. A press release on the Richmond Council website reveals that local cabinet members are going to write to Boris Johnson to “explain the idea” to him.
I suspect it’s fair to say he already understands the scheme. Unless Richmond’s councillors have some exciting new angle from which to sell the idea perhaps their colleagues on the London Assembly could get in touch and save them (and whoever answers letters on Boris’s behalf) some time?