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We must defend public transport in London

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We must defend public transport in London

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has produced research which showed how important public transport is in London.

Under the title of Commuting to Work it showed that half of all Londoners get to work on public transport but only 35% drive in. Perhaps this reflects Transport for London’s (TfL) own research which showed that 43% of London households don’t even own a car.

Small wonder then why public transport is so important in the capital and especially when we realise that these figures don’t take account of all the other reasons for using the bus, tube or train in London, including getting to school, visiting friends or going shopping.

The figures collected by the ONS are based on the period October to December 2009, the latest available, but it would be interesting to see the most recent trends in the use of public transport. Evidence from TfL indicates that the number of journeys is continuing to grow, a trend since the early 1990s and despite the recession in 2008.

The same is true of the rail network with companies reporting increased revenue and higher profits as witness the story we ran about the situation in Go-Ahead (Is London Midland having a laugh?)

Go-Ahead also own the Southern and South Eastern franchises into and out of London and where revenue has increased by 11.6% and 7.5%, respectively, with the company attributing the success to increased petrol prices that has led to people using the train to get to work rather than their car.

London is unique because in the rest of the UK 76% of workers use a car to travel to their workplace and only 1 in 11, or 9 per cent, take any form of public transport.

Another interesting point is that nearly a half (44%) of Londoners can get to their place of work within 30 minutes, with nearly a fifth (18%) of all workers living within 15 minutes. Unlike London, 80% of the sample outside the Capital lived within 30 minutes of their work. Yet, the question you are left asking is how poor is the provision of public transport in some parts of the UK when 46% of the sample lived within 15 minutes of their work and obviously still used their car?

This is why Together for Transport wants to defend public transport from the cuts that have already started. We are campaigning to defend and enhance public transport across the UK by organising in communities with our initial focus in London. Through our website - http://togetherfortransport.org - we want to inform people but also get them to take action through petitions, letter writing and by setting up local groups. We also want to interact with existing community groups and individuals to build up an alliance of those who want to resist cuts to public transport.

What we don’t want to see is Londoners being reduced to the same public transport provision as clearly exists in other parts of the UK. Is this seriously possible?

Well look at this as an example. As part of TfL’s “Business Plan 2009/10 – 2017/8” Boris Johnson announced cuts of £250 million to the £700 million bus subsidy. The idea was that the cuts would be made over the life of the Plan. That was, until the ConDem government’s Comprehensive Spending Review last October which saw TfL’s subsidy cut by £2.17 billion over four years prompting a re-think by TfL.

In April, TfL published its Revised Business Plan which announced that the bus subsidy would be cut not by £250 million, but by £450 million, and not over the life of the Plan, but by 2014, three years earlier.

Despite planning for a further 28 million passenger journeys, part of the Revised Plan is also to continue to raise fares by a formula of RPI + 2% until 2017/8. The same Plan openly states that the intention is that fares income will make up four fifths of the cost of providing the service which squarely puts the burden on the shoulders of the least well-off, those who use the bus network the most according to TfL’s own research. And this at a time when the Mayor decided to remove the income obtained from the Western Extension of Congestion Zone – was that to appeal to his core vote?

As if that wasn’t enough, the ConDem government have announced a 20% cut in the Bus Service Obligation Grant, a fuel rebate the bus companies can claim, from 2012. What is not known is how this will affect fares or services but you can easily see that it will do.

Of course, there are other issues in transport, not the least of these being what the government will come up with in November in the light of the McNulty Report that investigated Britain’s railways. And who could forget those train fare increases of an average of RPI + 3% each year for three years from 2012?

London has a public transport system that we want to defend and that should be the envy of the rest of the UK. If you have the same view as us, why not join us?

Website: http://togetherfortransport.org

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