Petition urges government to fully restore TfL free travel for under 18s and freedom pass benefits
PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 June 2020
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A petition has been launched calling for travel perks for pensioners and under 18s to be fully restored as part of the government’s £1billion bail out of TfL.
Labour Party member Unmesh Desai – who represents constituencies in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham and Tower Hamlets at City Hall – took action following the deal.
The government has agreed a £1.095bn grant and £505million loan for TfL. It says the settlement was needed because of the fall in revenue caused by Covid-19.
However, the government says an important second reason was the “poor condition” of TfL’s finances as a result of decisions made in the last four years.
But Mr Desai alleged: “The TfL bail out deal the government forced on City Hall and Londoners is deeply unfair.
“When the lockdown came, Londoners followed the government’s rules and stayed at home, but now they’re being punished for it.
“I’ve started my petition to make sure the government understands how angry my constituents are. They simply cannot afford this extra burden.”
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He claimed the deal came with “deeply unfair strings attached” including the scrapping of free travel for under 18s except school journeys; freedom passes for over 60s no longer valid at peak times and an end to the fares freeze.
The government argues that combined with increasing costs and delays to Crossrail, TfL was in “serious financial difficulty” even before the public health emergency.
It adds that to protect its services, the rescue package takes steps to put TfL back on a “sustainable footing” while ensuring fairness for taxpayers.
Ministers want to restore services to 100 per cent of pre-Covid levels as soon as possible; ease congestion by the temporary suspension of free travel for over-60s in the morning peak and temporarily suspend free travel for under-18s all day.
They argue this is needed to avoid crowding and reduce the exposure of “vulnerable” groups.
In a written statement to parliament, transport secretary Grant Shapps said to avoid such “drastic action” in the future there will be an “immediate and broad ranging” government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and structure.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We are working constructively with TfL on ways to reduce demand on the network during the Covid-19 crisis, including looking into the option of temporarily suspending free travel for under 18s.”
The petition can be found at Change.org
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