London travel fare rises could be reversed and prices frozen using Transport for London (TfL) underspend and additional income, a report claims.
Labour London Assembly member Val Shawcross has urged mayor Boris Johnson to scrap 2.5% rises to Underground and bus tickets - introduced on 2 January – and retain fares at 2014 levels.
A study from Ms Shawcross claims such a move could be funded using £98m of the £309m generated by better than expected fare income and TfL underspends expected to be accumulated over 2015/16.
‘While money is tight, I do not believe the answer is to take more from Londoners’ pockets - especially when TfL is expected to be sitting on millions in underspends and additional fares income,’ Ms Shawcross said.
The analysis outlines that the mayor’s first five budgets saw expenditure £1,069m (3.69%) less than anticipated and income from fares £235m (1.36%) higher than forecast. Ms Shawcross has calculated that TfL underspend this year could rise to £246m this year, with additional fare income of £63m.
Findings from a poll of Londoners published in The case for a fare freeze also suggests 76% believe fares are now too high, with almost a quarter describing them as ‘about right’.
The Labour London Assembly Group claims fares have on average risen by 40% since Mr Johnson took office in 2008.
‘For seven years under Boris Johnson fare increases have outstripped wage growth forcing commuters to spend more of their pay-cheque travelling to work.
‘The mayor’s decision to raise fares for the seventh year running will put even more pressure on Londoners struggling to cope with the cost of commuting. With 76% of Londoners believing fares are too high, a freeze for 2015 would give them a much needed break from the annual rise in fares.
‘In 2016 London will elect a new mayor who will have an the opportunity to map out a four year plan their fares strategy for their term of office. Until then a fares freeze this year would give Londoners some much needed respite from rising travel costs without harming the network’s upgrade and expansion plans.’
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the mayor said: ‘The mayor is fully aware that the cost of travel is a key concern for Londoners. That’s why he has frozen fares in real terms for this year and has confirmed dramatic cuts to Pay as you go caps to provide fairer and more affordable travel for thousands of flexible and part-time workers, with savings for some customers of up to £600 a year.
‘The mayor’s fares package has allowed him to hold down the cost of travel, while maintaining a vital programme of continued investment and improved services in our growing city.’
The mayor’s office highlighted efforts by Mr Johnson to provide lower fares to flexible and part-time workers, alongside funding for 500 additional buses and service improvements.