Inflation and fares

MQT on 2009-09-09
Session date: 
September 9, 2009
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


In the light of the July Retail Price Index showing a fall of 1.4%, will you make a statement about your plans for public transport fares in London from January 2010 ?


Answer for Inflation and fares

Answer for Inflation and fares

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Caroline has asked for a statement about our plans for public transport fares from January 2010 and, as I said earlier on and there are lots of questions about all this today - I think John [Biggs] has got one later on down the order paper - we are in the process of looking at the fares and TfL's business plan, obviously. This is not something that you would expect me to publish today. Today is not the day for it. But all I will say, and I hope you will agree, is that fares in London will remain extremely affordable and competitive by comparison with other major cities.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Come on, Mr Mayor, stop teasing us. Give us an indication as to what you really are going to do in terms of fares this year. You are supposed to be about a really transparent style of government. Take this opportunity now to let Londoners know whether you are going to be sticking to the inflation plus 1% formula and therefore reducing fares for Londoners next year.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me repeat, Caroline, in spite of your very enticing invitation to explain our thinking now, our thinking is still being elaborated. A great deal of work is being done, as I said, right at the beginning, on TfL budgets of all kinds, led by Peter [Hendy, Commissioner for Transport, TfL], and we are going to have a fares package which, as I have said, will ensure that Londoners' transport fares remain affordable and competitive by comparison with other major cities.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): But last year you were really quick to get out the bad news and that was on 4 September . You are saying now is not the time to get it out. Why are you delaying when, surely, it is going to be good news?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not want to anticipate -- why should I not save up the good news?

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): So it will be good news for Londoners will it?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): All sorts of work still has to be done and it would be wrong and precipitous of me, no matter how alluring these invitations, to share our thinking now.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): But given the Government has instructed the train operating companies to reduce their regulated fares, surely you are going to have to do the same for London?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think, with due respect, Caroline, I cannot fail to answer the same question more than four times. I am not going to tell you now what the fares package for January 2010 is going to be because now is not the time to uncork that particular vintage.

I will remind you, just in case people have forgotten, that roughly 40% of Londoners on all kinds of buses - probably more on the bendy buses obviously - travel free at the moment already. We have introduced measures to help people in the economic downturn that we are suffering. We are helping people with cut-price travel on Income Support and people who are looking for jobs and that is the right thing to do for Londoners.

I hope everybody still supports those measures and we will continue with those measures, whatever the fare package produces, and we will continue to make sure that Londoners have a Freedom Pass for 24 hours a day, and it is vital that they have that, particularly -- Normally there is a great cheer when I mention the Freedom Pass. Is everybody in favour of the Freedom Pass or have you dropped your support? You are. 24 hours a day. Thank you. We will maintain our support for young people to travel free on the buses because that helps many hard working families on low incomes throughout this city.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): I put it to you, Mr Mayor, that you cannot, in terms of the formula, pick and choose when you are going to use this formula or not, and I think Londoners are going to expect, given the economic climate, for you to keep your side of the bargain and to, at the very least, freeze fares for next year. But I accept you are not going to give us any hint at all of what you are planning to do for next year.

Can I urge you, when you are finalising your fares statement, will you consider, perhaps, some new strategies to encourage more people to use London buses? For example, looking at our one hour bus ticket campaign, that we mentioned to you earlier in the year which is proving very popular across London, time limited tickets, that would make it easier and more affordable for people to use the buses.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am aware of your proposal. The trouble is there is a cost implication in that. Several of your colleagues have already pointed out that bus subsidies are already under some pressure and --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Will you consider initiatives such as that to get more people using buses?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- I think that other users of the buses who listen to your suggestion should be aware that your proposal would have fare implications for them. So it is not cost neutral --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Will you consider such proposals that might other people on to the buses?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think, Caroline, I have given about as fair an answer as I possibly can to your brilliant proposal --

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Yes or no? It is quite simple. Will you be considering other options such as that?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will be considering it, but I will be unlikely to take it up, for the reasons that I have outlined.

Caroline Pidgeon (AM): Thank you very much.