Big Debate: Is Boris’ New Year fare hike a good deal for east Londoners?

London Mayor Boris Johnson announced that some London tube and bus fares will rise in the New Year to “keep the flow of investment going”.

The average transport fare is set to rise by an average 4.2 per cent - above the rate of inflation at 3.2 per cent - meaning a single bus fare on Oyster will increase from �1.35 to �1.40 on January 2 while on the tube, a single Zone One Pay As You Go fare rises by 10p and a Zone One to Six single fare increases by 20p during peak hours.

In defence of the rises, Mayor Johnson said: “It’s absolutely vital that we do this for the long-term, health and efficiency of London.”

As the recession puts an ever-increasing strain on budgets of low-income families, two London Assembly Members debate whether the transport price hike is a fair deal for east Londoners.

FOR: Richard Tracey, Tory London Assembly member for Merton and Wandsworth and transport spokesman

All parties would like to see fares held down, as Labour argue, but the real question is “How can this be done?”.The short answer is that holding down fares means cutting the cost of running London’s public transport and not improving it.

The public rightly demand improvements and, of course, Transport for London (TfL) needs more resources to improve services – to upgrade the Underground, extend and improve the Overground and the East London Line, build Crossrail, and modernise the buses with clean engines and hybrid technology, to mention but a few examples.

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Boris Johnson has taken difficult decisions to save money, such as reducing the number of senior managers at TfL, cutting back staff numbers overall, and reducing ticket office opening hours.

He’s committed to introducing modern technology and “driverless” trains on the Tube, the same as the DLR, and these would be safer, faster and cheaper than the status quo.

During the mayoral election campaign, Ken Livingstone was shameless enough to propose spending money that was due to be spent on capital projects on cutting fares.

When it was pointed out that that money would be needed to pay for Tube upgrades and other crucial improvements, he simply denied this and pretended that he could spend the same money twice.

Luckily Londoners were not fooled.

John Biggs and his Labour colleagues tend to keep quiet about Ken’s double counting, but they remain loudly committed to reducing fares.

Unfortunately, they have consistently opposed virtually every reform that the Mayor has proposed to cut the cost of TfL spending.

They can’t have improvements and low fares.

AGAINST: John Biggs, London Assembly member for the City and East London

Londoners’ wallets will be hit with another inflation-busting fare increase on January 2 as the Mayor announced last week that he will be hiking fares above inflation for the fifth year in a row across the capital.

Boris Johnson will increase fares by 4.2 per cent on the first working day of 2013, meaning he is responsible for a 26 per cent increase in fares since he became Mayor of London in 2008. Since he took office Boris has raised bus fares by 55 per cent to �1.40 for a single journey, with an Oyster single on the Tube, Overground and DLR from Zone One to Two going up 5 per cent to �2.10 in January. This increase is going to hit residents in east London extremely hard, as wages stay flat and the price of food continues to rise, fares increase are the last thing we need. The coalition government’s cuts are starting to bite and support is being cut off to parents and working families. Higher fares are putting even more pressure on local residents. The Mayor is completely out of touch. At the same time as fares going up above inflation, energy bills are going up 11 per cent and rents in London have increased by 30 per cent in the past three years.

The Mayor should not be adding to this burden by putting up travel costs yet again. The Annual London Survey shows transport fares are Londoners’ top concern. It’s inexcusable that Boris continues to ignore what Londoners want and need. Hard-working Londoners are struggling and this fare rise is effectively a tax on work – people who don’t have a choice but to use public transport to get to work. I am urging Boris to throw a lifeline to those who will find this above-inflation fare increase unmanageable. The Mayor needs to represent all Londoners and not forget about people striving to make a living whilst he promotes tax cuts for the millionaires.