Thursday, 4 September 2008

Half price fares restart as overall travel fares rise

Boris Johnson has reversed his decision to scrap half-price bus and tram fares for people on income support, it was revealed today.

The welcome u-turn was announced alongside an unwelcome 11% increase to single Oyster bus fares and a 10% increase to flat tube fares for children aged 11-15.

Speaking to the Budget and Performance Committee Boris Johnson said that he had decided to restart half price fares, but would fund them through the TfL's existing budget.

The new fares will begin in January, meaning that those people who reapplied for the discount before the August deadline will not suffer any additional financial loss above the announced increases.

However, it was not made clear whether those people on income support who do not regularly read Boris Johnson's press releases, will have to wait until January before they can reapply.

The Freedom Pass for the elderly will also be extended to 24 hours as promised and some off peak fares will be reduced.

Having it both ways

However, Boris Johnson was accused of trying to 'have it both ways' by pushing all blame for today's fare increases on to his predecessor.

Liberal Democrats Assembly Member Mike Tuffrey said at today's meeting:

"You were elected on a cost cutting agenda and Londoners will be dismayed that your first decision is to increase the cost of living. 

"You can't blame the previous Mayor. He left you a growth in the budget of 5% and to come before us today and say it is all (his) fault when you are increasing spending is disingenious to put it at it's mildest."

Asked about the supposed 'black hole' left by the previous Mayor, the GLA's Executive Director Finance and Performance Martin Clarke said that Ken's figures had in fact been balanced.

However, this did not stop Boris continuing his tirade against the 'electoral bribery' and 'largesse' of his predecessors decision to freeze fares last year.

There was also disquiet amongst members that details of the fare increases were leaked to the press, but not sent to the committee charged with scrutinising them.

However, unlike the assembly members questioning him in the chamber this morning, you can now read full(ish) details of Boris's fare changes here.


Tom said...

Good news that they'll continue (well, *restart*, technically) half price fares, but the rest is a total trainwreck, by the looks of things. I'm itching to be at this with a calculator but I've got a days work followed by clearing my kitchen out ready for large men with hammers to smash it up and put a new one in. I bet Boris timed it deliberately, the rat.

The Troll said...

You are quite right that it is 'restart' rather than 'continue'. I have amended the post to make that clear.

What we need to know is when people can reapply from. Perhaps my anonymous (to everyone else if not me) contributor from City Hall would like to come on and clear that one up. After he's apologised for slandering me first that is.

barry rochford said...

On the surface, it looks like a Boris style u-turn (didn't know it was happening and doesn't know it's been changed)
However, it seems that someone's done a calculation for him that he can avoid appearing to be Mr Nasty by retaining the half-price rate, but putting up the bus fares is only going to anger Ken's supporters as few of his supporters in Bexley use buses.
I presume that he has had some sound advice from Simon Milton - who clearly is much more sensible than the departed Prince of Darkness, in that the most likely way that he would flounder in the medium term would be the breakdown of the transport infrastructure through under investment. It was predicted that fares would rise under Boris, but he cannot make the investments needed without substantial fare rises, which leads to less use of public transport, greater car use, greater pollution ... showing how the market cannot resolve transport infrastructure.
I think he's got better short term advice from sensible Tories, but the period that follows will show the shortcomings in terms of budget needs.
He can't claim then that Ken left a low budget for him to work from!

Mr. Stop Boris said...

Surely a substantial chunk of the need for a price rise is directly attributable to Boris's decision to hand £millions back to Venezuela's state oil company for no reason other than political posturing?

If you continue doing something pretty costly but completely axe the means of funding it, you're obviously going to need to get some more money in from elsewhere.

The GLA finance person's input is very interesting. I wonder if the Standard will choose to focus (a) on the fact that the elected Mayor is lying to the city about his predecessor's budget or (b) on treating the lies the Mayor is issuing as if they were true. I can't imagine.

Anonymous said...

I just saw Boris johnson on BBC London news.

We are paying above inflation increases on our fares just as we head into a recession and the best he can do is try and blame the man who isn't even Mayor any more.


Tom said...

"Surely a substantial chunk of the need for a price rise is directly attributable to Boris's decision to hand £millions back to Venezuela's state oil company for no reason other than political posturing?"

This wasn't actually true, and I've been careful not to claim it. However, it becomes true as soon as Boris announces that half-price fares will continue, as he's now effectively moved the funding for that scheme from Venezuela to London, thus bashing another hole in the budget. This therefore legitimately allows us to claim that the £18m lost through the ending of the Venezuela deal is genuinely money taken out of the general TfL budget rather than a separate scheme.

Mr. Stop Boris said...

Tom: absolutely - now Boris has cut off the funding source but continued the scheme this is without doubt directly contributing to the need to raise fares to fill his own self-inflicted black hole.

My complaint before was that he had doubled fares for the poor; now it's that he's thrown away millions and caused a fare rise for the sake of political posturing over Venezuela.

Tom said...

It also legitimately opens up all the questions Damien Hockney asked about the original scheme - takeup has been much lower than expected - 75k out of 250k possible applicants (which is why it made a 'profit' of about £7m, it seems).

Will Boris advertise it properly in order to make sure all possible claimants know about it restarting? Will the recession increase takeup (it doesn't apply to Jobseekers Allowance claimants, but anyone tightening their belt who could be eligible might well be tempted)? Will he publish figures of how much the scheme is costing? Will he hand back the £7m to the Venezuelan state oil company *and* find £9m out of TfL's budget, when he could swallow his pride and keep the £7m to offset most of the cost of restarting the scheme?

All these and more will not be asked by your friendly Evening Boris 'newspaper'. Bah.