fighting travel concessions

Fighting to save travel concessions

Before breakfast on Sunday 1st November we learnt that the new funding deal for Transport for London (TfL) did not include cuts or additional restrictions on older Londoners’ travel concessions (primarily the Older Persons’ Freedom Pass and the 60+ Oyster card). The previous 48-hours had been a time of anxious waiting.

Affordable travel can transform lives. This may sound a little overblown but I’ve listened to so many people share their experiences that I really believe it to be true.

This ‘win’ is very good news and down to thousands of older campaigners that raised their voices in a way that I don’t think some had foreseen. It’s always important to recognise good news, but one reason why we celebrated was because much worse was expected. By the end of the working week, behind-the-scenes updates had led us to believe that there would be additional restrictions and possibly the scrapping altogether of the 60+ Oyster card!

I’ve counted over 40 different activities since we began campaigning, including local Forums writing to their MPs; but it’s hard to argue that the one with most impact was the nearly 50,000 people that wrote to the Secretary of State in just seven days.

Of course, judging ‘how good’ news is or isn’t is subjective and rooted in a wider context. Firstly, whilst this is a significant victory for older Londoners, it is not the end of the fight to protect travel concessions. In just six months (weeks before the Mayoral elections in May 2021) a new funding deal will be negotiated. TfL will be under even more pressure to cut concessions.

Secondly, the campaign began as a campaign against the pre-9am weekday suspension of concessions on the TfL network. Unfortunately lifting this suspension has not yet been achieved. This is really disappointing because we know so many people have to travel before 9am, not because they want to but because they have to. Only the first five weeks of the new funding deal will be covered by the new national lockdown and fares are set to increase in January.

I’ve heard from some people who believe that the 60+ Oyster card is overly generous. Whilst it is true that some 60+ Oyster card users could afford full fares many thousands cannot. The number of older Londoners needing to apply for out of work support has more than doubled in the past seven months and one in three older workers made redundant fear they may never work again.

Those in work in their 60s are proportionally more likely to work part-time because of caring responsibilities or health conditions. Some jobs are well paid but many are not. Living in a city with some of the highest living costs in the world could mean that having to pay as much as an additional £50 per week on fares will drive more in to poverty.

Scratch the surface of most campaigns and you’ll find a range of complicated issues. Whilst the battle to save concessions is far from over I want to say a huge thank you to all those that have been involved so far.

Please do email me at jmcgeachy@ageuklondon.org.uk if you would like to get involved.

John McGeachy

John is Age UK London's Campaigns Manager.

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3 thoughts on “Fighting to save travel concessions

  1. Hi John,
    Thank you for all that you do for Retired People.

    Many retired people worked hard to save for the future and deprived themselves from a lot. To means test such people would be a double deprivation. They are at a loss saving and again at a loss because they saved. There is injustice here.
    Those who are rich may not apply for nor use the freedom pass; they should be given the option.
    I think, freedom pass should be one of the benefits for working because you paid to go to work.
    Keep up the good work.

    Pat

  2. Retired people outside London have bus passes, usually available from 09.30. They can use these passes here in London when they visit. At the very least therefore retired London people should have concessions for bus travel in London and outside, as now. However while buses are all right for local journeys of up to, say, three miles, any further in London becomes very time-consuming especially at busy times. Therefore we need concessions on the tube and London Overground as well. Imagine if you live in Whetstone N20 (where I do) and had an appointment in the Victoria area. Piccadilly Line + Victoria Line get you to Victoria in under an hour. The equivalent journey (125 bus to North Finchley + 82 bus) would take up to 90 minutes depending on time of day, road works, and cumulative delays to the service leading to long gaps.

    One reason the Freedom Pass became available 24/7 was because Boris Johnson recognised that people had to keep hospital appointments first thing in the morning.

    This idea of mine would not suit everyone, and I wouldn’t actually really like it myself, but a possible solution might be that bus travel is free as now and that retired people pay a quarter fare on the tube.

    1. Hi Lucy,
      Thank you for your comment, you make very good points.

      The issue of contributions towards concessions is an interesting one and the Mayoral candidates will be looking at different ways to fund concessions. I think it will be a popular idea among some but will still have significant impacts for those on lower incomes. Means testing has been raised but with four in ten Londoners eligible for Pension Credit missing out despite being eligible many people would fall through the gaps.

      Best wishes,
      John

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