diamond geezer

 Sunday, January 17, 2021

TfL's annual fare rise was announced on Friday. It's very late, but everything's running late at the moment which is why the increase that normally happens at the start of January has been delayed until the start of March.

This is the first rise in London tube and bus fares since January 2016. That was Boris's final increase, after which Sadiq promised to freeze TfL fares for four years, and so he has. In fact he'll have managed 62 months, which is either excellent or wilfully negligent depending on your point of view. His intention was to go into the 2020 Mayoral election with TfL fares the same as when he was elected, but subsequent events have delayed that election by a year. Conveniently he'll now be able to blame the government for the 2021 fare rise, even though this is the year they were always due to start going up again.
"The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today confirmed TfL fares under his control will rise by an overall 2.6 per cent (RPI+1), as a condition of the emergency TfL funding deal made with the Government in October."
To put that 2.6% in context, fares rose 7% in 2011, 7% in 2012, 3% in 2014, 2.5% in 2015 and 1% in 2016, then 0% since, because some Mayors are happy to put fares up and some aren't.

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

Cost of a single central London tube journey

Unexpectedly the Zone 1 Oyster tube fare remains at £2.40. According to the press release this is to "support the wider economic recovery of London, including tourism, as those visiting the capital and travelling exclusively within Zone 1 will not see any fare rises". Lucky tourists, eh? But this has long been one of Europe's worst value metro fares, mile for mile, so leaving it unchanged should amend the imbalance slightly.
Fare rise 2011→2021: 26%
Fare rise 2016→2021: 0%

Meanwhile anyone still paying by cash continues to pay significantly more, as TfL try ever harder to persuade people to switch to contactless. "Fewer than 1% of Tube journeys are now made with Tube cash fares", we are told.
Fare rise 2011→2021: 38%
Fare rise 2016→2021: 12%

Cost of a tube journey from Green Park to Heathrow
Oyster (peak)£4.50£4.80£5.00£5.00£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.10£5.30
Oyster (offpk)£2.70£2.90£3.00£3.00£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.10£3.30

The Z1-6 fare has only risen 10p since 2013, so March's 20p jump is significant. But for this journey to Heathrow a fare of £5.30 (peak) or £3.30 (offpeak) is an absolute bargain, given that TfL Rail fares will be £11.10 and £10.40 respectively. The Piccadilly line remains less than half the price of other airport options.
Fare rise 2011→2021: 18%
Fare rise 2016→2021: 4%

One important change from March is that "Non-Zone 1 off-peak fares move from a flat £1.50 to three price points". Previously if you avoided zone 1 you knew you were going to be charged £1.50, whereas now it could be £1.50, £1.60 or £1.70 depending on how many zones you pass through. Anyone passing through three or more zones pays the maximum.

Tube (off-peak), journey does not include Z1
1 zone  was £1.50, will be £1.50
2 zones  was £1.50, will be £1.60
3, 4 or 5 zones  was £1.50, will be £1.70

The extra 20p for longer journeys equates to a fare rise of 13%, which is one of the largest increases in the fares package. That's bad news for Londoners making regular off-peak journeys across the suburbs, and not something the Mayor will be broadcasting loudly.

Cost of a single central London bus journey

Mayors are often kinder to bus passengers because they include the poorest amongst the electorate, hence the 5p fare increase is the smallest increment possible. But this uptick introduces an intriguing anomaly - a one zone tube ride (e.g Whitechapel to Stratford) will now be 5p cheaper than taking the bus. I think that's the first time in recent memory that the cheapest way to travel a short distance may not be the bus.
Fare rise 2011→2021: 19%
Fare rise 2016→2021: 3%

The Hopper fare remains, so chains of longer bus journeys will still cost the same as a single ride, i.e. £1.55. The daily cap for those who only ride buses rises from £4.50 to £4.65, i.e still three times the single fare.

Cost of an annual Z1-3 Travelcard

Here's where the long-term price rises are. No matter what the Mayor decides, Travelcards rise in price along with National Rail fares which are set by the government. This year's increase for a Z1-3 Travelcard is 2.6%, one percent ahead of inflation, and it's been increasing by a similar measure for years. Travelcard users are paying a third more than they were a decade ago, whereas pay as you go tube and bus users have had a much better deal.
Fare rise 2011→2021: 35%
Fare rise 2016→2021: 14%

But the biggest news is that fare rises are back, which'll be a jolt to anyone who's been used to their journey costing the same since 2016. The Mayor blames the government, the government blames the Mayor, and the real perpetrator is a microscopic virus which has caused the capital's economy to implode. In a way it's amazing that fares are rising so little, given the collapse in revenue from non-existent passengers, but a world-class transport network still has to be paid for somehow.

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