Free travel for Londoners aged 60 and above that was axed during the pandemic may never be restored, Sadiq Khan’s top transport aide has admitted.
A long-delayed review of whether to restore free travel before 9 am for holders of the 60+ Oyster or Freedom Pass is due by the end of the year. But Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said the £230 mn funding gap in transport for London’s finances meant the restriction may have to be retained.
Forcing older Londoners to pay to travel before 9 am raises about £15 mn a year in fares.
The time restriction was introduced by TfL in June 2020 to “reduce crowding” and “help social distancing”. But its retention became part of the government’s bail-out deals that required TfL to generate additional income. London boroughs, which administer the Freedom Pass, have been asked to advise TfL on the likely impact of retaining the restricted hours. Dance said it was “very much up for consideration” whether to fully restore the benefit. The rationale here is that there are far fewer people using the 60+ card for work,” he said.
“Obviously removing or watering down any concession is not something we would do with enthusiasm but purely out of necessity.” TfL is also continuing to explore whether to withdraw from the Travel card scheme that allows rail passengers to buy a ticket that includes Tube and bus travel. TfL believes the train companies benefit disproportionately from the fare-sharing arrangement and withdrawing from it could save £40 to £60 mn per annum. TfL chiefs also have concerns that paper Travelcards have a higher potential for fraud than Oyster or Contactless cars and a higher administration cost.