It is estimated that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s commitment to freeze Transport for London (TfL) fares for four years will cost a reported £640 million.
Cuts to government funding for TfL will see a £2.8 billion gap in the company’s finances between 2015 and 2021, which TfL say will “create further financial pressures.”
However, in order to fund the £640 million cost, TfL has reportedly sent a letter to all company directors and band five managers offering them voluntary redundancy as part of an effort to cut costs.
The letter explains: “TfL faces unprecedented financial challenge and we do not have enough money to continue as we are”, adding “we need to make our business sustainable and transport affordable for the millions who rely on us while protecting vital investment and day-to-day services.”
Many foresee that this will just be the opening move in an ongoing fat-trimming exercise which could cost hundreds of TfL staff their jobs.
Moreover, many have already accused the Mayor of London of breaking his manifesto pledge, in which he claimed that “Londoners won’t pay a penny more for their travel in 2020 than they do today.” Now, however, many claim that up to 450,000 public transport users in London will not be affected by the freeze.
The Mayor has responded by explaining that, in fact, his manifesto pledge was to “freeze TfL (Transport for London) fares for four years”, not travelcard prices which set by the Department for Transport (DfT).
According to a spokesperson for the Mayor the fares freeze will “benefit 96% of commuting Londoners”, adding that expanding TfL’s network will open the reduction up to more members of the public.
Despite the freeze, the daily and weekly ‘cap’ for Oyster card and contactless fares will continue to rise, as will single fares on suburban rail services not under TfL’s control. This has prompted many to claim that the changes will prioritize tourists over real London commuters.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly member, Caroline Pidgeon, summarised the situation Khan has found himself in, saying: “I think you have broken your fares promise today.”