London Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed above-inflation increases for bus and tube fares. From 2 January, the fares will rise an average 4.2%. This bus and tube fare increase is 1% more than the rate of RPI inflation, which was measured in July and is used as a benchmark for planned price hikes. The rate is also the same as what national mainline season ticketholders are facing. The mayor says that the coming hike would have been more if he hadn’t been able to secure £96 million in additional funding.
But on top of this, Johnson also confirmed that Barclays Cycle Hire charges will double. This will mean that a daily bike rental will rise from £1 to £2, while weakly hires will increase from £5 to £10 and memberships will rise from £45 to £90. This comes as the scheme has suffered financially, because most of the trips made are within the free 30-minute usage period. Despite the increases to charges, extra penalties won’t be imposed for returning cycles late, not returning them or causing damage to them.
Johnson says that he will outline more investment on the transport network that will help the British capital provide faster, reliable and more frequent journeys for Londoners before the end of the year. This is vital to the city’s economic development and growth. The initiative to raise fares is a very important package for the millions of passengers who use the service, and he’s pleased to have secured an additional £96 million to help keep fares as low as possible and to protect the concessions they offer to the most vulnerable residents.
The increases have prompted an attack from Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) leader Manuel Cortes, as Oyster card tube fares were supposed to stay frozen. He says that Johnson should be given a gold medal for cynicism. He has tried to bury the bad news on the back of an election victory for US President Barack Obama, while hiking up fares at twice the rate of inflation. He’s managed to break two election vows by increasing bus and tube fares, as well as hiking bike hire charges. Cortes then dubbed Johnson as the ‘Pinocchio of British politics’.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Bob Crow says that Johnson should have revealed a freeze on fares. This hike shows that taxpayers are still paying the price for the expensive failure of the public-private partnership privatisation disaster. It’s clear the mayor has no excuse for closing ticket offices and reducing staff numbers, as he’s imposing above-inflation fare increases. The RMT believes there should be a fare freezing policy that recognises the difficult times people are facing, to help boost the economy and to increase public transport usage.
Campaign for Better Transport campaigns director Richard Hebditch echoed these comments. He said that Johnson received praised earlier this week for supporting a living wage in London. However, his position on public transport clashes with this. He’s hitting cash-strapped families with these above-inflation fare increases for just commuting to work.
Labour transport spokeswoman Val Shawcross was surprised as well, saying that she believes Transport for London (TfL) could have kept the price hikes to just RPI and didn’t need the additional 1% since they raised more fare income than initially intended. London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson added that he hoped the long overdue expansion of bike hire into new areas of the capital would encourage less fortunate Londoners to try it, but now people will be deterred from using it with increased fees.