Political Promise

Time to dust off your boots

In David Brownsey-Joyce on October 25, 2010 at 8:09 am

David Brownsey-Joyce looks at the proposed cuts to transport and what it means for commuters in London.

A cumulative cut of 21% or £2.17 billion by 2014 in London’s transport budget is part of a mixed picture for London’s commuters.

Crossrail survives, adding a further 10% capacity to London’s over-ground rail networks and expanding the commuter zone. A good thing provided it’s done on time and on budget, however there are strings attached and the biggest is that £1 billion in efficiency savings need to be found.

£6 billion will be spent between now and the end of the 2014 financial year, maintaining and upgrading the London Underground network, with the problems experienced over the last few weeks we evidently need every penny we can get to spend on maintaining the backbone of the London transport network.

Together with Crossrail, the Underground upgrades will add a total of 30% extra capacity to the transport network, as someone who use to commute to Camden from Colindale on the Northern Line, I can tell you we need it.

The added 30% comes in time for the 2012 Olympics and with the predicted influx of tourists and possibly athletes using public transport, the network is going to be pushed to the limit and part of the legacy will be based upon how well the infrastructure bears up to the increase in demand.

Concessionary transport for the elderly and vulnerable, as well as those under the age of 18 will remain.

East London prepare for Boris’s Bikes by 2012, an extension to the highly successful bike hire scheme will surely be welcomed, saying that, the devil is in the details and the question will be how far the scheme is extended?

This successful program had over 1 million journeys within 10 weeks of being rolled out, currently it is purely a central London program and a very small one in proportion to demand. If the mayor of London really wants to show leadership in getting people out of cars and onto bikes he needs to push this further, he needs to push it in all directions, to go as far as zone 5 or 6 if possible and have these bikes available to all who want to use them. Added to this the news that 12 cycle superhighways are due for completion by the end of the 2014 financial year, we are really looking at London being the home for cyclists in the UK in the near future.

The withdrawal of the western congestion charge zone by the end of this year, is a surrender to business and probably a well timed one given we need them to start generating money again. The existing congestion charge will have a small increase in price and launch a new automated payment scheme which will allow for people to pay the charge without having to phone in, personally I would just be watching my bank balance going down a little each day, but then again what else is new.

These are the headline schemes that are staying. The bottom line is that Transport for London is having its budget cut by £2.17 billion by the end of the 2014 financial year, they can only keep so much and what they keep they need to get value out of so expect fare hikes.

The 2011 price rises on the underground network will be set at 2% above the retail price index, so just under 7%, but remember they often round numbers up rather than down.

There will be a withdrawal of the Zone 6-2 day travel card replacing it with a Zone 6-1, in fact you won’t be able to get a day travel card that will stop at Zone 2, they will all be valid to Zone 1. Whenever you go into Zone 1, you pay a premium and anyone who uses these cards will now have to pay that premium, regardless of whether they want to go to Zone 1 or stop before they go in. Transport for London is saying that this only affects a tiny proportion of people on a daily basis. It still affects them and could result in individual rises of up to 74% if they need to use their card at peak periods.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this but it seems like part of Transport for London’s push to get more people on to their Oyster card network, making the unions appear weaker in their position for protection counter staff at Underground stations. Maybe it’s just me. Either way I expect the unions will denounce the cuts to the transport network as jobs are put on the line.

All in all London is getting off pretty easy. I feel sorry for those who have to commute into London. They face the following, another round of big fare rises, the possibility of service reductions, well above inflation rises on unregulated fares, rising prices in the renting market and a continuing rise for demand for housing in London, whilst supply dwindles, meaning they can’t get settled into the capital even if they want to.

The worst may have been averted and the big projects may be continuing but with wages still stalling and inflation now rising can people continue to pay for rises in transport costs? Maybe this is all part of the coalition Government’s plan to combat obesity, simply to make it to expensive for us to use public transport and have to walk everywhere.


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