diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 19, 2016

TfL's annual fare rise was announced yesterday (interestingly only on the Mayoral website, and not on TfL's).

And, as promised, the Mayor has frozen TfL fares... not just for 2017 but for 2018, 2019 and 2020 too.

For comparison purposes, fare rises were 7% in 2012, 3% in 2014, 2.5% in 2015 and 1% in 2016. Next year, taking the downward progression to its ultimate conclusion, it's zero.

Here are some of the newly unchanged fares in historical perspective, with Labour years in red and Conservative in blue.

Cost of a single central London tube journey

The Zone 1 Oyster tube fare remains at £2.40. That's a 20% increase on five years ago, and a 60% increase on ten years ago, but no increase at all for the next four years. Meanwhile anyone still paying by cash continues to pay significantly more, as TfL try ever harder to persuade people to switch to contactless.

Cost of a tube journey from Green Park to Heathrow
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

Journeys beyond zone 1 have barely risen in price since 2013, and this latest 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

The pay-as-you-go bus fare also remains unchanged in January, still £1.50. And with the introduction of the Hopper fare in September allowing two bus journeys for the price of one, it's possible to argue that the overall cost of bus travel has gone down.

So where's the catch?

The catch is rail services in London not operated by TfL, because the Mayor's fare freeze doesn't apply to those. He has no jurisdiction over the majority of National Rail suburban services, so their fares are rising by inflation, or an average of 1.9%.

Rail fares are generally more expensive than tube fares, thanks to years of differential increases. From January all single rail fares within zones 1-6 are to increase by another 10p, while the equivalent tube fares remain the same. Here's quite how confusing and complicated it's got.

Cost of a single train journey (Oyster, 2017)
Z1-2£2.90£2.80 £2.40£2.30
Z1-3£3.30£3.50 £2.80£2.60
Z1-4£3.90£4.00 £2.80£2.90
Z1-5£4.70£5.10 £3.10£3.30
Z1-6£5.10£6.20 £3.10£3.90

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 over a pound dearer to travel to central London by rail than the equivalent journey would be by tube. From zone 2, 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 the equivalent rail journeys cost anywhere from £1.80 to £2.70.
An added complication is that not all rail journeys are charged the same. Some have TfL tube fares, thanks to long-standing agreements, while others charge full whack. This page tells you which is which. South London gets a much rawer deal than North.

Now here's the bad bit, which the Mayor has been careful not to amplify in yesterday's publicity. Travelcards aren't subject to the fares freeze, even if you only ride on TfL services. Travelcards 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 1.8%, be that weekly, monthly or annual.

Then there are those daily and weekly caps which TfL like to trumpet because they save you money. Bad news, these are 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 zones 4-6+20p
Any day's travel solely within zones 1-3+10p
Any day's travel solely on buses and trams  +0p

It's only ten or twenty pence more a day, or up to £1.10 a week, but that could be over £50 a year. Sadiq's supposed fare freeze is no such thing if you're a regularly-capped traveller.

Rise in the weekly cap
Zones travelledIncrease
123 or 23456+70p
12 or 2345 or 3456+60p
234 or 345 or 456+50p
23 or 34 or 45 or 56+40p

The headline says TfL fares frozen until 2020. Reality says you might be paying more.

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