Sadiq Khan’s brief spell as a transport minister is set to cost Transport for London around £90m a year in lost fares revenue by the end of his mayoral term.
As Minister of State for Transport during Gordon Brown’s premiership, Mr Khan was responsible for implementing the government’s decision to raise the eligibility age for concessionary bus passes, including London’s Freedom Pass, in line with the qualifying age for state pensions.
The controversial move, one of several measures introduced by Mr Khan to cut government funding for free bus travel, means the pass can no longer be issued to people aged under 63. The minimum age is set to rise each year and from 2020 new applicants will need to be 66 or older to qualify.
Ministers’ decision to hike the qualifying age was deeply unpopular and in response former Mayor Boris Johnson instructed TfL to introduce an over 60s concessionary pass to ensure older Londoners could still travel at no cost until they qualified for the Freedom Pass.
The new 60+ Oyster card enjoys widespread cross-party support and all main party candidates standing in this year’s mayoral election, including Mr Khan, pledged to retain it.
However, unlike the Freedom Pass which is run by London’s councils who compensate Transport for London for the cost of journeys made by pass holders, Mr Johnson’s pass isn’t covered by similar external payments.
This means that instead of receiving funding for operating the scheme, Transport for London simply forgoes the fares revenue which it would otherwise collect thereby reducing the money available to invest in the transport network.
Official figures show the scheme currently costs £55m per year in “revenue foregone” to run, a sum which is set to rise each year until financial year 2020/21 when the level of lost fare revenue will reach £94m per year.
Over the course of Mr Khan’s mayoralty the cost of restoring the concession he axed while in government is projected to have cost TfL more than £290m:
60+ London Pass estimated revenue foregone at 2016 prices
SOURCE: The Greater London Authority
The figures were provided by Mr Khan this week in response to a question tabled by Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon.
In his reply Mr Khan says he is “absolutely committed to maintaining the 60+ concession.”
He adds that the pass “enables all London residents aged over 60 to enjoy the benefits formerly provided by the Freedom Pass before the Government decided to increase the age of Freedom Pass eligibility from 60 in 2010,” but omits to mention his own role in removing those benefits.
Mr Khan’s decision to play down his involvement stands in stark contrast to the election campaign when he regularly cited his time as a transport minister and claimed to have played a key role in delivering the Crossrail rail link.
Commenting on the Mayor’s answer, Ms Pidgeon said: “During the Mayoral campaign Sadiq Khan never wanted to stop highlighting his record as a transport minister under the last Labour Government but now that the full impact of that Government’s decisions become clear on City Hall finances he is suddenly less keen to remind everyone of the central role he played in cutting support for free travel in London for older people.”
ORDER LAID BEFORE PARLIAMENT BY MR KHAN INCREASING THE ELIGIBILITY AGE