Labour politicians in east London call on Government to stop plan to suspend free TfL child travel
PUBLISHED: 07:00 08 June 2020
Labour politicians from across east London have called for the scrapping of plans to stop free travel for children on public transport in the capital.
A joint statement opposing the move has been released by the leaders of Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge Councils, Darren Rodwell and Jas Athwal, MPs Jon Cruddas, Dame Margaret Hodge and Wes Streeting as well as City and East assembly member Unmesh Desai.
Last month, transport minister Grant Shapps revealed the Government would be giving Transport for London (TfL) a grant of around £1billion and a further £505million loan in response to TfL being in “serious financial difficulty”.
Mr Shapps announced a temporary suspension of free travel for under-18s would be a condition of the funding - but the group of east London politicians has demanded the Government rethink its plans.
They said: “We are writing to oppose measures which could stop the poorest children in our communities from using public transport and put local councils further into debt.
“For many children, free travel is often the only way to get to shops and other facilities like local parks and youth centres.
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“The Government risks making children from poor backgrounds even poorer. This is simply unacceptable.”
Mr Shapps said special arrangements will be made for children who qualify for free school travel - those between five and seven are eligible if they live at least two miles from their nearest suitable school and eight to 16-year-olds if three miles or more away.
The group of Labour politicians argued this would add more demand on council resources.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has also written to Mr Shapps urging him to drop the plans to end free child travel.
A spokesperson for the mayor said: “While Sadiq wants to keep passenger numbers at safe levels that allow social distancing, he has been clear that penalising young Londoners is not the way to do it.
“Suspending free travel for under 18s will hit the poorest Londoners hardest and place additional administrative and financial burdens on already stretched councils.”
The Department for Transport and TfL did not respond to a request for comment before this paper’s deadline.
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