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Case not yet made for above-inflation TfL fares rise, Assembly says

Transport chiefs have not yet justified a potential 7% rise in Tube and bus fares next year, a new report from the London Assembly said today.

The Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee says demand for public transport during the economic downturn has been higher than expected and so Transport for London (TfL) has collected more money from fares than it forecast.

TfL also recently said that it does not intend to use fares to pay for the reduction in its government grant this year or its takeover of Tube Lines.

“Passengers should not face even higher transport costs without clear justification for them.”

John Biggs, London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee

The Committee’s report Balancing Act therefore calls on TfL to publicly justify why it plans to recommend to the Mayor that fares should rise by 2% above inflation in 2011.

In January this year, fares rose by an average of 12.7% on buses and by 3.9% on the Tube.

However, a new survey commissioned by the Committee found that people on low incomes and not working have been particularly hit by the much higher rises in 2010.

This is because these groups are most likely to travel by bus using Oyster Pay-As-You-Go or season tickets and these fares rose by up to 20% in January.

The report recommends that if the Mayor is convinced that fares must rise next year he should spread the pain more evenly by ensuring the prices of these tickets do not rise by more than other ticket types.

Opting to drive

The Committee also calls on the Mayor to make sure any future fares rises do not lead to unwanted changes to travel patterns, such as people opting to drive instead of using public transport.

London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee chair John Biggs said: “These are tough economic times for Londoners and in January some of the poorest were hit by big increases in bus fares.

“Passengers should not face even higher transport costs without clear justification for them.

“If the Mayor does decide that fares should go up next year, we would want him to think carefully about the potential consequences.”

John Biggs, London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee

“And if the Mayor does decide that fares should go up next year, we would want him to think carefully about the potential consequences, particularly the risk that some people could be driven off public transport.”

The report highlights how funding for London’s transport is coming increasingly from passengers, rather than government grants. In 2009 for every £1 put in by central government, passengers paid 99p but by 2017 current plans would result in passengers providing £1.29 for every £1 from government.

TfL’s longer term government funding is very uncertain and could be much less than anticipated. The Committee says if funding is cut this autumn, TfL may have to amend its business plan and, at that point, the Mayor should ask Londoners about their transport priorities.

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