Rory Stewart has hinted he would likely increase public transport fares if elected mayor and has claimed London is “stuck in 2008”.
The independent mayoral candidate, and former Conservative cabinet minister, told City A.M. it “cannot make sense to be running a system that’s losing this much money every year”.
Transport for London (TfL) is expected to make a £742m loss in 2019-20 on the back of a fare freeze from mayor of London Sadiq Khan and expensive bus subsidies.
“The major problems [for TfL] have been around funding and I’m afraid a lot of that has been around fare freezes, but also about drops on the numbers of people on buses,” Stewart said.
“Under Boris Johnson, TfL was generating a lot of money for the city a lot of time, but for various reasons – not all his fault – TfL under [Khan] has been losing money.”
When asked if he would increase fare prices, Stewart said: “I’d have to look at it very seriously.”
Khan announced a four-year TfL fare freeze for individual journeys as a part of his campaign for mayor in 2016.
It came along with the mayor’s £1.50 bus hopper scheme to try and encourage people to take public transport.
A spokesperson for the mayor defended his record in office, but declined to say whether City Hall would raise TfL prices beyond next year if re-elected.
“TfL fares went up by 42 per cent under the last Tory mayor and now Rory Stewart is joining the Tory candidate Shaun Bailey by promising to increase TfL fares every single year if he wins,” they said.
“Londoners can trust Sadiq on fares.”
Speaking at the London Conference on Tuesday, Stewart spoke about dealing with major London issues, such as crime and housing, partly by forming citizens’ assemblies.
In an apparent swipe at Khan, and his predecessor Boris Johnson, Stewart also said the city was stuck in the past.
He said: “As far as I can see these ideas we’re talking about now were [former mayor] Ken Livingstone’s ideas – his bicycle idea, the congestion charge.
“It feels to me the city is still stuck in these ideas of 2006, 2007, 2008.
“What you need is a culture that is fresh and open to ideas and enjoys doing things that engage people.”