Think tank tells Mayor of London: Make transport fairer with fare and zones review
A new report by the think tank Centre for London calls on the Mayor to review fare structures and fare freeze, zones and concessions to make the capital’s transport system fairer.
The report, Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone, develops a new framework to examine transport fairness in relation to how affordable, connected and accessible the transport network is to different groups.
It finds that low connectivity and affordability of public transport in different parts of the capital impact the ability of Londoners on low incomes to travel for work, education, healthcare or personal reasons.
While there are both rich and poor areas with good and bad connectivity in London, nearly half (46 per cent) of the most deprived Londoners face the challenge of poor transport connections.
In some parts of outer London, and pockets of inner London such as north Peckham and north Kensington, the combination of high housing and transport costs and low wages squeezes disposable incomes. Neighbourhoods with average monthly residual incomes below £850 per household are particularly concentrated in parts of Havering, Enfield, Haringey and Brent, and are less common in south London.
Even in better-connected areas, access to transport can depend on income: A Savanta ComRes poll commissioned for the research found that only 38 per cent of people with a monthly take-home income of £1,000 or less use the Tube and Overground at least once a week, compared to 61 per cent of people with a monthly take-home income of over £2,000.
At the same time, poorer Londoners spend a higher percentage of their income on transport costs. Londoners with a monthly take-home income of £1,000 or less spend an average of £90 a month – or 13 per cent of their income – on transport, compared to £176 – or 5 per cent of income – for those with a monthly take-home income of over £2,000.
The report also found that the Mayor’s TfL fares freeze has not helped all Londoners equally: while single fares have been frozen since 2016, the cost of Travelcards and oyster caps for regular commuters have risen every year – in 2020 the cost of a weekly Zones 1-6 Travelcard will have risen by nearly 12 per cent since 2016.
While there are concessions and discounts to help people with low incomes, such as benefits claimants and jobseekers, the report calls on the mayor to review fare structures and concessionary fares, as well as transport planning processes, to improve affordability and further support disadvantaged groups.
It recommends that zone boundaries should be kept under review to ensure they reflect the shifting geographies of poverty and affordability. This could include reviewing zones for stations that are in low-affordability areas such as Becontree in Barking and Dagenham, or Seven Sisters, South Tottenham and Tottenham Hale in Haringey.
Finally, to address the embedded inequalities in London’s transport system, the report calls on the Mayor to re-evaluate how decisions are made about transport investment across the city, to place greater emphasis on the travel needs of disadvantaged Londoners, while providing better transport infrastructure for areas of low connectivity.
Silviya Barrett, Research Manager at Centre for London said:
“Public transport has a huge impact on Londoners’ lives connecting them to each other as well as to places of work, education, healthcare, and culture.
“But the capital’s transport system doesn’t offer the same benefits to everyone.
“Poorer Londoners struggle with high transport costs. Parts of the city – especially on the outskirts – are poorly served by public transport and have a higher reliance on cars. Large parts of the network remain inaccessible to disabled and older Londoners.
“The Mayor and Transport for London may have limited powers over Londoners’ incomes or life circumstances, but there is much they can do to make transport truly inclusive.
“Reviewing fare structures and zones is one place to start, but ensuring that equity is a central consideration in all transport planning and investment decisions would create fairer access for everyone.”
Matt Winfield, London Director, Sustrans, said:
‘We know that the poorest communities in London are worst affected by the impacts of car use – from poor air quality to a higher likelihood of being injured on London’s streets.
“The entrenched issue of transport inequality is highlighted in detail by this important report and Sustrans welcomes the focus on outer London and a rethink of zoning and fare structures.’
Graeme Cooke, Director of Inclusive Growth, Barking and Dagenham Council said:
“We fully support the findings of this report as it resonates with calls we have made over the past few years to rezone our underground stations.
“The council launched a campaign in 2016 to have all three Dagenham tube stations re-designated in Zone 4, as part of a holistic plan to improve transport links and grow our borough.
“We fully support the recommendations in the report as it will benefit a large number of our residents.”
Bharat Mehta, Chief Executive of Trust for London, an organisation tackling poverty and inequality in London and funder of the report, said:
“We welcome Centre for London’s vital new report, exploring the significant barriers which many Londoners face when accessing London’s transport system and calling on the Mayor of London to do more to remove them.
“High housing, childcare and transport costs are the three main outliers making London unaffordable to low paid workers so taking action to allow London’s transport network to be more inclusive, affordable and accessible is crucial to alleviating this problem.
“The Mayor should make a point of taking this report’s recommendations on board to create fairer access for everyone.”
Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency, Southwark Council said:
“Southwark Council is proud to support this research into the important issue of equity in London’s transport system.
“We know that movement is an important factor in determining health and wellbeing, but too many people in London still face barriers to accessing public transport. Improving affordability, accessibility and connectivity in transport is vital to ensure everyone can benefit from the opportunities our world-class city offers.”
Notes to Editors:
About the data and research
- ‘Poor connectivity’ defined as the lowest PTAL 1a and 1b. Our analysis found that 46 per cent of the people living in the most deprived quintile (as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation) live in areas with the lowest PTAL 1a and 1b, compared to 64 per cent of the people in the least deprived quintile. PTAL is a measure of connectivity by public transport, taking into account the number of tube and rail stations and bus stops within a reasonable walking distance and the frequency of services from those stations or bus stops.
- Low connectivity can limit access to employment opportunities. It is estimated that inner London residents can access up to 2.5 million jobs by travelling up to 45 minutes on public transport, compared to between
250,000 and 500,000 jobs for outer London residents. (GLA Economics, Economic Evidence Base for London 2016).
- Savanta ComRes interviewed 1,011 London residents between 15th and 18th of July 2019. Data is representative of all London residents by age, gender and region. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables are available on the Savanta ComRes website: https://www.comresglobal.com/