The Labour group on the London Assembly has accused Mayor of London Boris Johnson of “punishing the least well-off and most vulnerable Londoners” after he announced the scrapping of an deal which allowed income support recipients to benefit from half price fares.
Last year Johnson’s predecessor agreed a deal between Transport for London and Venezuelan Oil Company PetrÓleos de Venezuela Europa which provided a 20 per cent reduction in the price of fuel for London’s bus fleet. The saving was to be passed on to the poorest Londoners by way of half priced bus and tram fares.
However yesterday Mr Johnson, under cover of a Bank Holiday weekend, announced that he would scrap the agreement when it comes up for renewal this August. That decision also spells the end of a skills and knowledge swap with Venezuela which saw TfL share expertise with Venezuelan officials in return for the oil rebate.
The consequence of Johnson’s decision will be a doubling of fares for the very poorest in London as the special reduced fare Oyster cards issued to beneficiaries expire.
Labour’s transport spokesperson Val Shawcross said the announcement was “the first indication we have had of the true direction in which Boris Johnson wants to take London” adding “by scrapping half-price fares for those on the lowest incomes, Mayor Johnson is punishing the least well-off and most vulnerable Londoners, including thousands of carers and single parents.”
Shawcross also attacked the Mayor for failing to provide funding for other means. In a statement issued on Monday she commented “Boris Johnson’s decision not to explore alternative ways of funding half price bus and tram travel shows exactly what he thinks of those who already struggle to access all that London has to offer. It’s a sad and worrying indictment of the Tories’ transport priorities.”
Although Johnson’s press release described the deal as “controversial” it was backed by carers and poverty groups in the capital.
A Greater London Authority press release issued in February 2007 quotes a spokeswoman for the Single Parent Action Network describing the deal as “a step towards increasing access to services, maintaining social support networks and increasing access to training that may lead to better future employment prospects.”
Last August London’s Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy hailed the deal as a positive move for “the least well off Londoners, who now have even greater access to jobs, leisure and all this great city has to offer.”