Sadiq Khan’s fares “freeze” fails commuters – and will still hit Tube investment hard

 
Gareth Bacon
Transport For London Freeze Fares Until 2020
Sadiq Khan has broken his promise to voters by failing to freeze annual travel card costs (Source: Getty)

New Year's resolutions are like the mayor of London’s election promises – often made with good intentions but almost always broken a few months down the line.

As we ring in 2017, commuters here in the capital will be seeing the cost of their travelcards go up by 1.9 per cent – the result of Sadiq Khan’s biggest broken promise of last year when he pledged a “fares freeze” for Londoners.

In February, he insisted “Londoners won’t pay a penny more in 2020 than they do today” – something he repeated in several interviews during the election campaign. It was his landmark pledge and one that helped him over the line into City Hall.

Just a few weeks after taking office though, he dropped the bombshell that not all fares would be frozen: only pay-as-you-go fares and single journeys applied. The vast majority of commuters – approximately 4.5m people who use annual travelcards or hit the daily cap – simply do not qualify for the freeze and will now see their fares increase.

Read more: London fares set to go up despite Mayor's freeze promises

The mayor has subsequently tried to claim that he was clear he was only ever referring to pay-as-you-go fares – we must all have been mistaken. But if that was the case then assembly members of his very own party were just as confused as the rest of us.

Back in April, replying to one concerned voter who asked if the freeze would include travelcards, Labour assembly member Leonie Cooper reassured that the freeze “does not exclude pay-as-you-go, season tickets, anything. Ok?”

Unfortunately for that particular commuter, and millions of others, things are not “Ok” this January. Their fares, probably quite unexpectedly after the mayor’s promises, are going up.

Khan will inevitably point fingers at the government and say it isn’t his fault – but the government never promised to freeze Londoners’ fares.

To make matters worse, the small number of fares he will freeze, which will have next to no benefit to regular travellers, is taking £640m from TfL’s budget, money that could otherwise be put towards vital investment and upgrade work.

Read more: Sadiq Khan's wild promises will starve the Tube of investment

As a result of this and other reckless spending announcements, the mayor’s recent TfL business plan is a worrying sight. Long-term borrowing will go up by nearly 50 per cent and almost 30 per cent of budget reserves will be eaten up, potentially leaving the cupboard bare for the next administration and threatening the long-term viability of our transport system.

Sadly this habit of making a promise and breaking it has become a common feature of the current team at City Hall.

As well as his fares freeze, the mayor has rowed back on promises to build 80,000 new homes a year, guarantee 50 per cent affordable housing on all new developments, plant 2m trees by 2020 and have “zero public transport strikes” on his watch.

The start of 2017 provides an opportunity for self-reflection. In the mayor’s case, he may want to consider making a New Year’s resolution he intends to keep.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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