diamond geezer

 Friday, November 17, 2017

TfL's annual fare rise was announced yesterday.

It wasn't announced very loudly, because fare increases are no longer news, because fares are frozen. But not everyone's fares are frozen, so while many people will get away with paying nothing extra from 2nd January 2018, others will be paying over 3% more.

To add a historical context, TfL fare rises were 7% in 2012, 3% in 2014, 2.5% in 2015, 1% in 2016 and 0% in 2017. Next year, in the second year of Sadiq's four year freeze, the official increase is again zero.

Here are some of the newly unchanged fares on the tube and on the buses.

Cost of a single central London tube journey
 2008200920102011201220132014201520162017-20
Oyster£1.50£1.60£1.80£1.90£2.00£2.10£2.20£2.30£2.40£2.40
Cash£4.00£4.00£4.00£4.00£4.30£4.50£4.70£4.80£4.90£4.90

The Zone 1 Oyster tube fare remains at £2.40. That's a 14% increase on five years ago, and a massive 60% increase on ten years ago, which perhaps helps to explain why the fare freeze has so been popular. Meanwhile anyone still paying by cash is forking out twice as much as they would if only they joined the modern world and waved their contactless.

Cost of a tube journey from Green Park to Heathrow
 2008200920102011201220132014201520162017-20
Oyster (peak)£3.50£3.80£4.20£4.50£4.80£5.00£5.00£5.10£5.10£5.10
Oyster (off-peak)£2.00£2.20£2.40£2.70£2.90£3.00£3.00£3.10£3.10£3.10
Cash£4.00£4.00£4.50£5.00£5.30£5.50£5.70£6.00£6.00£6.00

Journeys beyond zone 1 have barely risen in price since 2013, and Sadiq's freeze means the Z1-6 fare rise between 2013 and 2020 will be an amazingly small 10p. Meanwhile all off-peak London tube journeys avoiding zone 1 remain at the rock-bottom fare of £1.50, which is damned good value.

Cost of a single central London bus journey
 2008200920102011201220132014201520162017-20
Oyster90p£1£1.20£1.30£1.35£1.40£1.45£1.50£1.50£1.50
Cash£2£2£2£2.20£2.30£2.40£2.40xxx

The pay-as-you-go bus fare also remains unchanged in January, still £1.50. What's more, "in the first quarter of 2018" the Hopper is being extended to permit unlimited free transfers within an hour of a first paid-for journey. No longer restricted to two buses, the updated Hopper will allow you to catch as many as you like for £1.50, even if you catch a train inbetween. That's cracking news.

So who's losing out?

Fares will still rise on the majority of National Rail suburban services because they're not run by TfL, so the Mayor's freeze doesn't apply. These fares will be rising by inflation, or an average of 3.6%, which is a lot more than the 1.9% they rose last time.

The Mayor's press release is very keen to point out that this 3.6% fare rise is not his fault. Instead the evil Train Operating Companies are to blame, because they want the full whack the government permits so weren't willing to follow Sadiq's example and make a hole in their budgets. The phrase "mandated by the TOCs" appears as many as sixteen times in the text of the Mayoral Decision announcing next year's fares, just in case any journalist might miss the significance. If only Sadiq had shouted this loudly during his election campaign, perhaps voters wouldn't have been quite so surprised when his fare freeze turned out not to be a fare freeze for all.

Rail travellers are amongst those who'll be paying more. From January rail fares within Greater London are to increase by another 10p per journey, while the equivalent tube fares remain the same. For peak journeys between zones 1 and 6, the increase is actually 20p.

Years of differential increases mean rail fares are generally more expensive than tube fares, as this table shows.

Cost of a single train journey (Oyster, 2018)
 Tube
peak
Rail
peak
 Tube
off-peak
Rail
off-peak
Z1-2£2.90£2.90 £2.40£2.40
Z1-3£3.30£3.60 £2.80£2.70
Z1-4£3.90£4.10 £2.80£3.00
Z1-5£4.70£5.20 £3.10£3.40
Z1-6£5.10£6.40 £3.10£4.00

The difference in fares is fairly small in inner London, but rises more steeply towards the outskirts. If you live in zone 6, for example, at peak times it's 25% dearer to travel to central London by rail than the equivalent journey would be by tube. Off-peak from zone 3, oddly, it's 10p cheaper. And for journeys that stay outside zone 1, the differential is even worse. All off-peak tube journeys in zones 2 to 6 cost £1.50 off peak, but equivalent rail journeys cost anywhere from £2.00 to £2.90. While one set of fares remains the same but the other rises, this gap can only widen.

As for Travelcards, these are funded assuming you might travel by tube or you might travel by rail, so if rail fares rise then Travelcard prices have to rise too. Everyone with a Travelcard will end up paying more next year, in the order of 3.6%, be that weekly, monthly or annual. No fare freeze here.

And as for those daily and weekly caps which TfL like to trumpet because they save you money, more bad news. These are directly linked to Travelcard prices, so they're rising too. Individual bus and tube fares might not be rising next year, but the point at which the cap kicks in is being raised, so you could end up paying more anyway.

Rise in the one-day cap
Zones travelledIncrease
Any day's travel venturing into zone 6+50p
Any day's travel within zones 1-5+40p
Any day's travel within zones 1-4+30p
Any day's travel within zones 1-2+20p
Any day's travel solely on buses and trams  +0p

Rise in the weekly cap
Zones travelledIncrease
123456+£2.10
12345+£2.00
1234+£1.70
123+£1.30
12 or 2345 or 3456+£1.10
234 or 345 or 456+90p
23 or 34 or 45 or 56+80p
23456+40p

Totted up over a full year, London commuters who rely on capping could be paying over £100 more in 2018 than they did in 2017. Sadiq's supposed fare freeze is no such thing if you're a regularly-capped traveller.

According to the Mayoral Decision, "continuing the TfL fares freeze will not have an adverse impact on TfL’s ability to run and invest in the transport services that London needs to remain successful." That's rich, given recent cutbacks in bus services and the cancellation of planned rolling stock upgrades. The worst of both worlds, surely, is that millions of Londoners end up paying more, but getting less.


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