Conservatives on the London Assembly have renewed calls for free travel passes to be withdrawn from the spouses and partners of transport workers after calculating that the concession costs £22m per year.
Transport for London provides all staff with a pass which entitles a named nominee to travel on its network at no cost.
Although many are issued to spouses, partners and family members, Conservatives on the Assembly claim some passes are also issued to “lodgers and flatmates” because staff don’t have to provide evidence of a relationship with their chosen beneficiary.
They and the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall have repeatedly called for the concession to be scrapped and the resulting savings re-invested in the network.
In 2013 Tory AM Tony Arbour claimed axing the pass “would save in excess of £17 million,” a figure dismissed by Mayor Boris Johnson who argued that “it actually would not yield savings of anything like that order simply because there is no marginal cost to TfL of providing the perk.”
Both TfL and the Mayor have also previously claimed that “the cost of providing free travel to staff and their nominees on our services is nil,” with Mr Johnson insisting that the concession “is something that is in the contract, something that is negotiated.”
In October 2013 he told AMs: “It is one of the terms and conditions on which people join the service and they do a fantastic job.
“I think to take it away in an arbitrary fashion would unquestionably be perceived as something that people had not bargained for and I think you could expect a very adverse reaction to no real economic benefit to us.”
However his party colleagues on the Assembly say a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that the passes aren’t a contractual entitlement and can be withdrawn at TfL’s discretion.
They’ve called for an immediate halt to the issuing of new passes and for TfL to let all existing passes expire at the end of the year.
Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservative Assembly group, says such a move could raise an extra £22m in fares revenue each year, some of which could be used to provide free transport to firefighters, a perk already enjoyed by Met Police officers.
Mr Boff said: “At a time when the public sector is having to make money stretch further, there is no justification for individuals who do not provide an essential role in keeping London in operation receiving these types of benefits.
“It is about time Transport for London cracked down on waste, and got rid of this gold plated perk”.
A Transport for London spokesperson has dismissed the claimed £22m in extra revenue as “nonsense” and insisted that the nominee pass “is a long-standing part of the terms and conditions of TfL staff”.
They added: “Were it to be withdrawn it would result in immediate claims for increased pay and almost certainly lead to widespread industrial action for a net financial loss.”
“Any additional revenue if nominee passes were withdrawn would be no more than £5-7 million at most because average fares are far less than the assumed values used.
“There is in fact no cost to TfL, because the number of journeys is so low as a proportion of the 10m Tube and bus journeys being made per day, meaning no additional services need to be operated.
“All TfL employees and their nominees are expected to act as ambassadors for TfL, ensuring the security of the system and helping assist our customers where necessary.
“Compensating for the loss of this benefit would be likely to increase TfL’s employee costs considerably and by far more than any increased revenue.”