More than 300 Londoners aged 50 or older will be taking part in the London Older People’s Assembly at City Hall later this morning. During a series of workshops, including one entitled ‘Helping Older Londoners Get Around‘, attendees will discuss their experiences of life in the capital and ways the city can be made “more age friendly”.
This year the annual event comes amidst continuing upset within some sections of the capital’s older population at Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s failure to secure a deal with to allow the Freedom Pass to be used on rail services before 9.30am.
During last year’s election campaign the Mayor promised to extend the Freedom Pass so it could be used 24 hours a day, however opposition Assembly Members and some older person’s groups accuse the Mayor of not making clear this undertaking didn’t extend to rail services.
Last month the Mayor told Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon: “The Train Companies claim that any extension of free travel rights could lead to significant overcrowding and congestion on their services. From the evidence on the underground, I don’t believe this to be the case and TfL will shortly be re-engaging with the Train Companies with a view to negotiating wider Freedom Pass acceptance from January 2010.”
Johnson has made clear his position that any agreement “must represent good value for money for Londoners, and fair compensation for the fare revenue lost, not a windfall bonus for the Train Companies.”
The non-acceptance of the Freedom Pass by train companies means that older people living in areas where there is no tube can face additional difficulties getting around the capital before 9.30am.
Pidgeon, who also chairs the London Assembly Transport Committee, says many pensioners “believe the promise made by Boris Johnson for 24 hour use of the Freedom Pass applied to all public transport in their area. Clearly this has not been the case and at present many pensioners in London are getting a rotten deal. In particular the restrictions on rail travel greatly inconvenience pensioners who need to attend early morning hospital appointments.”
“As with the extension of Oyster to rail the Mayor now needs to ensure he delivers on the many promises he has made on improving railway transport in London.”
Although Johnson has been keen to take credit for the current extension of the Freedom Pass on Transport for London services, the £260 million a year scheme is funded and administered by London Councils, the pan-London body which represents the capital’s local authorities.
Earlier this year it emerged the Mayor had entered a deal, which he is yet to officially announce, with London Councils to give away his ‘reserve powers’ to determine the level of funding the body should make available if it is unable to reach agreement with TfL.