As the majority of Londoners’ eyes were busy watching America to see if Barack Obama could secure his second term as President, something was happening on our doorstep that many people missed. The news of yet another price hike from the Mayor and his cronies at Transport for London.
As if travel was not milking enough of us dry already, ‘loveable’ Boris has gleefully set out his plans to once again increase the price of travel on every method of public transport in the New Year. That’s right fellow Londoners, come January 1 as we collectively nurse our hangovers and nurture the sense of dread that we all do at the beginning of a brand new year, we will be greeted with the discovery that the process of simply getting from A to B is going to be impacting on your monthly pay packet even more aggressively. From January using your Oyster on a bus will rise from £1.30 to £1.35, a journey into zone one on the tube will increase by 10 pence from £2 to £2.10 and the price it will cost to use one of Boris’s beloved bikes will double – no wonder he seems so keen to encourage people to use them!
All of this strikes me as some serious backtracking by Johnson, who during his campaign for a second term earlier this year, promised to ‘bear down’ on transport costs. In fact, during the BBC’s London Mayor debate in May of this year Boris attacked would be Mayor, Ken Livingstone’s plans of reducing transport costs by claiming, ‘What I can tell you is that fares will be lower under me than they could conceivably be under Ken Livingstone’ adding that fares would go down ‘in an honest sustainable way’.
Unsurprisingly, there seems to be no indication that Boris has stuck, or will stick to, this pledge. With his false promises still ringing in the ears of Londoners, I’m astounded that it has taken him less than half a year to brazenly backpedal on the assurances he made to Londoners in May.
Whilst a rise of 4 per cent is not too much when considered in isolation, let me remind you that this is just the latest increase in what seems like a dedicated four-year commitment to making London the most expensive city for transport in Europe.
No doubt you, like most Londoners, look back with sentimentality to those simple times when reasonably priced transport wasn’t a thing of the past. To the day when travelling on a bus would cost you less than £1 and when a weekly travelcard for zones one to three would give you a few quid change from £30. Yet, this happy place we remember with fondness wasn’t decades ago. Oh no, to find this utopia of affordable travel you would only have to regress four years. So what’s been the big change between 2008 and now? Boris Johnson.
Since the Conservative, mop-haired buffoon took the reins in 2009, the cost of travel in the capital has been on an unrelenting upward curve. The price of a single bus fare has increased by 50 per cent and the price of travelcards has increased by over 20 per cent. This is neglecting to mention the 100 per cent price hike he has put on the use of Boris bikes in the space of three years. Boris has nailed his flag to the mast and sadly, this is a flag we as Londoners will have to live under for the next three years.
This is not a time of affluence in London and many are struggling to make ends meet. I would have to agree with Val Shawcross, Labour’s City Hall Representative when she said ‘that Boris and the government allowing fare prices above inflation goes to show just how out of touch they are with the real cost of living’.
Last year TfL earned nearly £3.5 billion on fares alone, far more than was needed. However, a percentage of this was splashed out on sickeningly large Olympic bonuses for 379 of its executives. Surely, at a time when it is most needed, this money could have been spent on instigating a plan to freeze transport costs and thus, help out the millions that pay their salaries.
Although his witty speeches are enough to suck many in and persuade them to cast their vote in his favour, it is his policies that should define him as our Mayor. Under Johnson, the cost of transport has escalated to unprecedented levels and if the last five years are anything to go by, it promises to continue. With over 25 million trips being made by Londoners everyday this is an issue that affects us all.
Image by Matt From London courtesy of Flickr