From 2012 we should cut fares not protect polluters

Boris Johnson is preparing to hit London with above-inflation fare rises, which will mean that in just eighteen months the price of a single bus fare will have risen by a third.

Many commuters going back to work on Monday 4th January after the Christmas and new year break will find they are paying considerably higher fares. A single bus or tram journey by Oyster will rise by twenty per cent, as will a weekly bus pass. That comes on top of last year’s rise in the price of a single bus journey by another eleven per cent, also under Boris Johnson. Overall bus fares will rise in January by 12.7 per cent and tube fares by 3.9 per cent.

Furthermore some tube fares will rise much more, with many single fares outside Zone 1 rising by 18 per cent. The Financial Times confirmed it is the largest real-terms fare increase since devolved government was returned to London in 2000.

In such tough economic times when Londoners are working hard to hang to their jobs and stretch their incomes Conservative Boris Johnson is dipping into Londoners’ pockets every day with aggressive above-inflation fares hikes.

The latest twenty per cent increase in bus fares will also hit the poorest hardest as they are the biggest users of buses. And Boris Johnson’s increases will bite hard in outer London where buses are often the most easily-accessed form of public transport, and which is the only part of London served by trams, which will also be hit with the largest – twenty per cent – increase.

Yet it is within any mayor’s power to choose different priorities to reduce cost pressure on Londoners and promote public transport.

Instead of making the majority pay whilst protecting polluters, as Boris Johnson has done with his transport policies, if I were to be re-elected as mayor in 2012 I would take immediate steps to reduce the fares burden on Londoners. A fares cut would be financed through the restoration of the western extension of the congestion charge, reducing traffic levels and generating at current figures £70million a year, alongside the introduction of a higher £25 charge for the most polluting gas guzzlers – which if it had not been axed by Boris Johnson would already be generating around £50million a year.

With these two measures alone it would be possible to cut fares, not squeeze Londoners hard as Boris Johnson is doing.


  1. Kevin T says

    It wouldn’t cut them by much though, would it? People certainly wouldn’t be paying less than they are now. The fact is the cost of maintaining London’s public transport system (particularly the Tube) is high and constantly increasing. You and Mayor Johnson differ on whether to get the money from the people who use it, or from drivers (and council tax payers). Neither of you appears to have a strategy for doing anything about the spiralling cost… or the shabby state of much of the service.

  2. says

    Kevin, you don’t indicate if you think the cost is warranted or not but you imply not. For a city of London’s size and needs, a world class public transport network is vital, not a luxury. We simply cannot do without it. Given the two decades of under-investment it received before 2000, a huge injection of cash was important. This was acheived partly through the revenue from the congestion charge but also from money won from government.

    It is clear to me that Ken’s approach was to invest to bring the system up to scratch. Boris Johnson’s is to dry up the funding and let the system crumble – all at more cost to the commuter.

  3. Damian Hockney says

    But Friendly, I am not sure you are right about the business of the Congestion Charge providing huge injections of cash for transport – commentators on the figures have always raised eyebrows when referring to the way in which the costs of the C-Charge and the income are difficult to properly evaluate and are treated in different ways in the accounts – thus making it difficult to establish “profit”. Indeed I seem to remember when I was on the Assembly that it had been conceded the Western Extension would make no profit for many many years, if at all. But the former Mayor makes an important point, even if you strip away hype and selection of fare examples. These rises are dangerous to London’s economy and there appears to be little will to get to grips with the real problems faced by TfL customers in regard to fares.

  4. Damian Hockney says

    …and of course, the former Mayor should also take into account that some of the biggest increases in charges under the current regime are for…users of the Congestion Charge. He doesn’t attack that massive inflation busting increase.

  5. Leo says

    The other side of all this ,is that those in power were supposed to be limiting pollution in order to avoid fines from Europe , also those in power were supposed to be protecting the health of Londoners by limiting pollution and hopefully extending the congestion zone or creating more to avoid fines and to protect peoples health. It will take years and years before Boris Johnson’s ” Fantasy “of electric cars ,lorries,buses and motorbikes dominating the roads and streets of London will happen ,if it ever does. I believe Boris Johnson does not really care as he wont be around in years to come and I also dont believe he cares for the ordinary person in the street by introducing these big fare increases to Bus users.Boris Johnson in my view is clearly a Mayor for the rich and not a Mayor for the ordinary person in the street. We will all soon pay more for Boris Johnsons Policies in the near future with our health and fines to come !

  6. Nigel King says

    I am assuming that this is the same Ken Livingstone who in January 2004 increased cash bus fares from 70p to 100p (43%) then again the following year to 120p (20%) then again the following year to 150p (25%) and AGAIN the following year to 200p (33%). In the space of four years that totals up to an eye watering 185%. Of course I forgot to mention that there was no increase in 2008 (nothing to do with a desperate bid for re-election!). Would you trust anything this guy says?

  7. Leo says

    And there was me Assuming that we was going through a deep recession and there was less money in peoples pockets. People have lost jobs and need to use public transport to get around London to find new jobs ,these people are now going to be really clobbered by these fare increases. Agreed in 2004 fares did rise but we was not going through a deep recession and times were good. Even in 2004 Public Transport fare increases were not the right answer as we needed to get people out of their cars for numerous reasons.

    To say Ken Livingstone was going to continue to raise Bus Fares is Hypothetical and complete spin because he never proposed it or even carried it out to my knowledge.

    To increase Bus Fares at this time and by this amount is in my view a complete insult to Londoner’s as they have now become very expensive and Public Transport should be affordable to all especially the disadvantage and those on low incomes.

  8. Liam says

    Nigel – that comment is disingenuous and you know it. The increases in ‘cash’ fares under Livingstone were a deliberate method of encouraging the (now highly successful) introduction of the Oyster pay-as-you-go card.

    Under Livingstone, the cost of the latter was consistently kept low whilst at the same time a ‘carrot and stick’ approach was used to stop people paying on buses with cash – thus saving commuters a great deal of time queuing!

  9. Nigel King says

    Liam, I don’t really see where you get the ‘carrot and stick’ idea from. The stick was patently obvious but as far as I remember there were never any reductions in fares for those using Oyster cards (except of course in late 2007 when Ken Livingstone reduced them from 100p to 90p as a pre-election sweetener). Ken Livingstone oversaw an increase from 70p to 100p (43%) in the space of three years between 2004 and 2007, not exactly what I would call ‘Consistently Low’.

  10. TawkinSenz says


    How sad that you are so easily fooled by some numbers produced by Boris’s office. The facts are that as Liam said cash fares were raised under Ken, but not Oyster (and as we were in an inflationary environment at the time these equate to decreases) I’m sorry your statistics don’t take that into account.

    Now we are in a low inflationary environment (if not deflationary) making Boris’s rises even more ‘eyewatering’ – but don’t let Economics get in the way of a good old random stab at Ken.

  11. TawkinSenz says


    I would like to correct you – we all make mistakes but…

    “Many commuters going back to work on Monday 4th January after the Christmas and new year break will find they are paying considerably higher fares.”

    ….luckily many commuters didn’t actually go back to work after Christmas because they all lost their jobs!!
    How bad was it? – well there were SEATS AVAILABLE on the DISTRICT LINE before 9 AM on a WORKDAY for the first 3 weeks (and the schools were back for at least one of those)

    Never before has this happened – such was the cull of jobs in London.

    What Boris has done is the epitomy of Economic stupidity by increasing fares across the board in a period of falling prices and falling wages and falling customer numbers.

    ….how long before TFL needs a bailout? I hope you’re all watching your council tax bills closely over the next few years…..