Mayor of London Boris Johnson held a rare City Hall press conference this afternoon to set out how the government’s review of public spending would impact on the capital.
Mr Johnson repeated Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement, made earlier in the Commons, that Crossrail would proceed unaltered and three tube line upgrades would be go-ahead, but was unable to rule out increasing the Council Tax precept to protect policing levels in the capital.
The decision to proceed with Crossrail in full was welcomed by business leaders in the capital.
Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London first, which represents major London firms, said: “Today’s announcement of continued investment in Crossrail and the Tube is a positive and welcome response from Government to the well evidenced view of London business, that infrastructure investment is vital to growth.”
Baroness Valentine said it was now up the Mayor and Transport for London to “squeeze down costs, consider new financing and funding models, in order to minimise inevitable increases in fares and charges to passengers and road-users.”
The Mayor also used his press conference to announce that fares in the capital would increase for the third year in a row with a single bus journey set to rise to by 10p to £1.30. When Mr Johnson became Mayor the same fare was just 90p.
On the Tube the Zone 1 pay as you go fare will also increase by 10p to £1.90 while “overall” Travelcard season ticket prices will go up by RPI plus two per cent.
There are also increases on London Underground, DLR and London Overground fares. On all three transport modes the pay as you go fare for journeys within a single zone will increase by 10p while the cost of a 6 zone journey will increase from £4.20 in peak-time to £4.50 and off-peak from £2.40 to £2.70.
A 4 zone cash fare which includes travel within zone 1 will increase by a £1 on all three services while a five zone journey excluding zone 1 will increase from £3.50 to £5.00.
Transport for London say the average increase is equal to RPI plus two per cent, the minimum level of increase signalled last year.
Passenger watchdog London TravelWatch, itself under threat from spending cuts, said it was “very concerned that people are being priced off public transport” and warned the announced increases “will hit Londoners hard.”
The new fares were announced as Mayor Johnson revealed that TfL’s overall funding from the Department for Transport is to fall by £2.17bn over four years.
However the Mayor had some good news to announce, confirming that the capital’s extensive line-up of concessionary fares would continue “in their entirety.”
In a statement issued by City Hall after the press conference the Mayor said: “Throughout the tough negotiations over London’s transport funding, I have also been determined to ensure that fares in London continue to deliver excellent value for money and that has been achieved. On the buses, the average fare per journey, including concessions, will be just 60p, compared to an average typical bus fare of around £1 in other UK cities.”
Despite imposing a further fare increase, the Mayor confirmed that the Western Extension Zone of the Congestion Charge is to be scrapped this Christmas, a move TfL’s own figures show will cost the organisation £55m per year.
Defending the abolition of the extension, Mayor Johnson said “the people of west London had the Western Extension unfairly foisted upon them and they have now voiced their antipathy for it loud and clear on several occasions.”
The Mayor said it was “essential” that the remaining charging zone “continues to do what it says on the tin and remains a deterrent to all but essential journeys” and confirmed that the daily charge for vehicles entering the zone would increase two pounds to £10.
Drivers can benefit from a £1 discount by signing up for the direct debit based ‘CC Auto Pay’ scheme which will auto-deduct funds whoever their vehicle enters the zone.
The Mayor’s announcement on the scrapping of WEZ was welcomed by Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly who said the extension “was a serious mistake from the very outset.”
However the Campaign for Clean Air in London called the decision “astonishing” and claimed it “would result in the daily limit value for dangerous airborne particles (PM10) being breached in the WEZ area in 2011.”
TfL’s briefing document says pollutants “are predicted to increase slightly as a result of the removal…but it is not predicted that this would prevent London from meeting PM10 legal limits by 2011.”
There was further condemnation of the decision from Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson who said the lost revenue “could have helped the Mayor introduce measures to reduce air pollution in London.”
Mr Johnson warned the result of the decision “could be more premature deaths from polluted air and an increase in the number of preventable deaths and injuries on our roads as road safety budgets are cut.”
Asked by journalists whether an overall lower funding settlement would require him to increase the Greater London Authority’s Council Tax precept to safeguard police numbers, the Mayor refused to rule out the possibility. Since taking office in 2008 Mr Johnson has made much of his freezing of the precept, and currently lists it on his re-election website as once of his achievements in office.
Mayor Johnson, who previously told the London Assembly he would mount a “Stalingrad-like defence” of the capital, dismissed suggestions that the funding settlement was the “bare minimum” any Government would have offered.
Ken Livingstone, Labour’s 2012 Mayoral candidate, claimed his successor had “failed to protect” Londoners who he said would now endure “painful” cuts.