Richard Tracey AM, Conservative Transport Spokesman on the London Assembly, says and end to the perks culture at Transport for London and a willingness to engage with big brands could help freeze fares.
Last week we published the second report in a campaign aimed at encouraging TfL to make more use of commercial sponsorship across the underground (which was succinctly summarised on this website) calling on TfL to generate more money from the private sector by selling naming rights to stations.
It is part of a broader push by GLA Conservatives to encourage TfL to look more closely at how they could make the required savings, or generate sufficient additional revenue, to prevent future above inflation fare increases.
Fare increases have been a frustrating necessity of Boris’ time as Mayor. He inherited a huge hole in TfL’s budget and with a transport system starved of investment. TfL cannot keep fares in line with inflation without harming its investment programme. But if the money can be found elsewhere then the Mayor’s decision becomes harder to defend.
TfL’s generous perk culture is a good place to look for such savings. Scrapping the free travel passes gifted to family, friends or lodgers of TfL staff, for example, would save TfL at least £17 million a year; money that could be put towards bearing down on fares.
The pension scheme is another perk that demands scrutiny. Despite reform to public sector pensions across the country – predominantly a move from a final salary to an average salary scheme – TfL’s odd status as a sometimes private, sometimes public organisation, means its pension scheme is not undergoing reform.
For example, bringing employer pension contributions in line with the average paid by local government could have saved £144 million in 2011 alone.
With a budget running into the tens of billions of pounds, finding the money to prevent above inflation fares rises – only tens of millions in comparison – should be possible.
Telling TfL to look for the savings, however, or cancel projects they have already invested hugely in, is not going to produce results. But showing them where the money can come from, as GLA Conservatives are trying to do, may eventually force their hand.