With Christmas and New Year out of the way it’s time for the annual ritual of complaining about fare increases.
The problem is that much of the commentary on the issue is dishonest and partisan – everyone demands better and more reliable transport but every 12 months the usual suspects come forward to denounce the increases which are needed to fund the improvements they crave.
Those doing the complaining this year have managed to gloss over the fact that alone in the UK the capital has seen bus usage grow in recent years. That growth is a direct result of TfL’s investment in new, more reliable and safer buses.
It’s claimed that offering different fare levels for those paying cash and using Oyster is unfair and disadvantages the poor who – we’re told – cannot afford the Â£3 deposit for the card. This objection has a whiff of straw grabbing about it.
According to a recent statement issued by Mayor’s office there are 6 million Oyster cards already in circulation while A spokesman for TfL suggests the figure may actually be higher. According to TfL available data suggests the majority of cards are held by London’s 7.1 million residents.
Such a take-up rate should be lavishly praised so naturally the carpers and moaners gloss over the scheme’s success. So successful is the scheme that the Department for Transport have included the need to provide Oyster ticketing in the new South Western rail franchise.
The final objection to higher cash fares is a perceived unfairness on visitors to the capital who won’t have a card. In fact Oyster is available to buy in a number of those countries which account for large numbers of visitors to London as a result of a much under reported initiative by TfL.
Oyster also has a part to play in reducing the profits of crime, holders of registered cards can have the card stopped and their money replaced and of course bus and tube staff have to handle far fewer cash transactions.
The fall in cash ticket purchases has allowed tube staff to be redeployed from the comfort of the ticket booth to the platforms and stations foyers where they provide a reassuring presence and vital source of help and advice.
For every headline grabbing instance of hysteria there’s a positive fact based response. Of course we’re all used to politicians and sections of the media carping but just for once it would be nice to see a success story acknowledged for what it is.
Let’s all celebrate “The Year of the Oyster“.