TfL bailout: Older people to lose free travel before 9am from 15 June

Bus only allowing 20 people on board
Return of the “twirly”: Older people will have to pay for their own travel before 9am on weekdays

Older people will lose their right to travel for free in London at morning rush hour during the coronavirus outbreak from June 15, it has been confirmed today.

This temporary cut to free journeys was a condition of the Government bailout agreed by Transport for London last month.

From 15 June passengers using the Older Persons’ Freedom Pass, 60+ Oyster photo card or English National Concessionary Scheme will no longer be able to travel for free between 4.30am and 9am on weekdays.

Those using the Disabled Freedom Pass will not be affected by the change.

Older people’s free travel cards will automatically switch off during morning rush hour – but will still work later in the day, and all day at weekends.

The change will come as Londoners head back to high street shops, department stores and shopping centres for the first time since lockdown began on 23 March. Under plans announced by Boris Johnson, non-essential shops will begin to reopen from 15 June.

The changes to free travel were demanded by Government ministers as part of the £1.6 billion TfL bailout agreed last month.

The London transport authority relies on fares to fund its services – but saw income haemorrhage as commuters stayed at home from the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown.

Journeys on the Tube fell 95 per cent, and bus trips were down 85 per cent – meaning a 90 per cent drop in income for TfL.

The emergency Government deal – agreed just hours before the network ran out of cash – will keep services running until mid-October.

But TfL has been told to cut free travel for older people and children, raise fares next year, and reinstate the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone. There is no confirmation yet on when free travel for under-18s will end; representatives of London’s 32 boroughs met government officials on Monday to protest about the changes, which they say will cost town halls £16 million.

The transport authority is advising older people to avoid travelling immediately after 9am to avoid crowding on the network.

And TfL is asking all travellers to walk or cycle where possible, and only use public transport where no other option is available.

Network technology chief Shashi Verma said the changes would help reduce the risk of overcrowding at the busiest times.

“We are working hard to ensure that those who have no option other than to travel using public transport can do so safely,” he said.

“Given the national requirement to maintain two-metre social distancing, the capacity of buses and trains is hugely reduced.”

LDRS logoJessie Mathewson is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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