Boris Johnson has announced that London’s half-price travel scheme is to be extended to cover recipients of Job Seeker’s Allowance and the new Employment and Support Allowance. City Hall says the move is designed to help people back to work by making it easier to travel to interviews.
London’s first half-price travel scheme was introduced by Ken Livingstone and funded by money from Venezuelan Oil Company PetrÓleos de Venezuela Europa.
One of Johnson’s first actions as Mayor was to scrap this deal, saying “many Londoners felt uncomfortable about the bus operation of one of the world’s financial powerhouses being funded by the people of a country where many people live in extreme poverty.”
After months of confused briefings, City Hall finally confirmed that funding would be found from within Transport for London to continue the scheme.
Today’s announcement means that around a further 150,000 Londoners should benefit from the scheme when it comes into effect on April 1st.
City Hall says the discount will be extended to those who benefited from the previous Income Support discount scheme who have now been made ineligible by the changes to the benefits system that the Government has recently introduced. The extension will mean an investment of £3m for the year in terms of lost revenue.
Mayor Johnson said he wanted “to help the thousands of Londoners who, during these tough times, will find themselves looking for work, by making it easier for them to get around the city when travelling to interviews and accessing other amenities that will help them find jobs.”
Mike Tuffrey, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Assembly Group, said: “I have repeatedly called on Ken Livingstone and since May 2008 Boris Johnson to extend half-price travel to Londoners who are unemployed, so today’s decision is most welcome.”
“No one should be forced to turn down an interview because they can’t afford a bus fare. Yet Boris Johnson has put up fares this month by 11% – three times the rate of inflation. At present an unemployed person on JSA, with a weekly income of just £47, will end up paying £2 for a return trip to an interview. If they pay their fares in cash the fares will be £4.”