Zac Goldsmith today warned that cutting fares would undermine Transport for London’s ability to deliver the network upgrades and improvements needed by the capital’s growing population.
Speaking to MayorWatch, Mr Goldsmith said that while he would “love to be able to say that I want to cut the cost of travel,” delivering on that pledge would be “catastrophic for London.”
The Tory mayoral hopeful was speaking after unveiling his ‘action plan’ for London which contains pledges to push ahead with the delayed Night Tube service and continue lobbying central government to back the proposed Crossrail 2 link.
However, unlike his Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green party rivals, Goldsmith hasn’t pledged to cut fares which have risen each year under current mayor Boris Johnson.
Labour’s Sadiq Khan has promised to freeze fares for the full four-year mayoral term, a policy he says would cost £450m to implement, while Green Party candidate Sian Berry has pledged to introduce a flat fare for Tube passengers in a move which would reduce fares income by around £300m per year.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon has announced a more modest £30m a year policy to halve fares for Tube users who travel before 7.30am.
TfL’s network is seeing record numbers of passengers as a result of both population growth and falling car usage prompting the agency to draw up plans for a number of schemes, including expanding the London Overground and Bakerloo line, to boost capacity.
Although much of the cost of such schemes is met through government grant and levies on local developers and businesses, some of the funding is raised via fares.
Mr Goldsmith told this site that the planned schemes were essential to improving services for passengers who currently “spend way too much time standing like sheep in a truck”.
He commented: “If you promise people a four year fares freeze, which is what Sadiq Khan has promised, you can only do so at the expense of growing the network and I think growing the network is the overwhelmingly priority.
“I would love to be able to say that I want to cut the cost of travel, I’d love to be able to promise free travel but I know if I made that pledge either I’d break it or it would be catastrophic for London if I kept it, and I think the same applies to the pledges we hear from the other side.”
Like Mayor Johnson and Mr Khan, Goldsmith has also promised to use TfL land to deliver the new homes and offices required to accommodate London’s growing population and the businesses needed to employ it.
He says any homes built on public land would first be offered for sale to Londoners and has promised to ensure that “a significant proportion of all new homes are only for rent and not for sale.”
Other policies include “creating more green spaces and cleaning up local parks so they are safe to visit and enjoy,” and boosting the number of police who patrol public transport at night.
Like Mr Khan, Goldsmith has also committed himself to “protecting the Freedom Pass” despite it being fully funded by London’s councils and its future guaranteed by Act of Parliament.