Memorandum submitted by Transport for London
1.1. Every day, Transport for London (TfL) provides transport and services for more than 10 million people across the Capital. We run London Underground and manage the bus network, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the Congestion Charging scheme, and Croydon Tramlink. From November 2007, TfL will also manage the new London Overground rail services.
1.2. TfL is directly responsible for the 580km of Red Routes which make up London's busiest main roads, all of London's traffic signals and the London Traffic Control Centre, which manages traffic operations in realtime to minimise disruption across the Capital's roads.
1.3. We also manage Victoria Coach Station, London's Transport Museum and eight piers on the river, as well as licensing services that serve them. In addition to regulating taxis and the private hire trade, we promote road safety, cycling and walking, operate the Dial-a-Ride service and fund local transport initiatives in every London borough.
2. The Freedom Pass and the Reserve Scheme
2.1. The Freedom Pass provides free travel for Londoners over the age of 60 on the Tube, DLR, bus and tram after 9am on Monday to Friday and all day at weekends and on public holidays. Disabled people can travel at any time using the pass. In total, 1,049,975 older and disabled Londoners benefit from the Freedom Pass.
3. The Bill
3.1. TfL warmly welcomes the introduction of free bus travel for older people and disabled people nationally. We have had constructive discussions with the Department for Transport about the scheme including the development of appropriate legislation. We are grateful for this opportunity to make a submission to the committee on two issues of
Clause 1: the national concession
3.2. TfL supports the principle of the introduction of a national scheme to guarantee free bus travel to everyone over 60 and all disabled bus passengers. The committee will have noted that for people over 60 the Freedom Pass can be used after 9am on weekdays until 4.30am the following morning and that disabled people can use the pass to travel for free at any time. Under the national scheme proposed in the Bill, free travel will not be available until 9.30am on weekdays and not after 11pm. The Mayor of London is fully committed to retaining the existing level of concession for London residents.
3.3. As well as the potential for confusion among passengers, TfL is concerned that the difference in validity hours means that bus drivers will have to enforce two different regimes. To address these concerns, TfL propose to the committee that the national scheme should conform to the time restrictions applicable to an existing local scheme such as the Freedom Pass.
Clause 5: reserve free travel scheme
3.4. The Reserve Scheme under Section 241 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 provides that, if the London boroughs do not reach agreement with TfL on funding for the Freedom Pass then the statutory reserve scheme comes into effect for the next financial year at a cost determined by TfL. National rail, although covered by the Freedom Pass, is not part of the Reserve Scheme.
3.5. During the Bill's passage through the House of Lords, the committee will have noted that attempts were made to remove the Reserve Scheme from the 1999 Act. At present, the Reserve Scheme permits the Mayor of London to guarantee the existence and extent of the Freedom Pass. It ensures that a small number of boroughs cannot impose cuts on the scheme for the whole of London and that older and disabled Londoners continue to benefit from free travel after 9am across London's transport network.
3.6. TfL warmly welcomes the Bill's national scheme for free travel on buses between 9.30am and 11pm. However, as noted above the Freedom Pass can be used between 9am and 4.30am on weekdays. Given the success and popularity of the Freedom Pass scheme, TfL urges the committee to resist any attempt to make the Bill's scheme the statutory minimum for London in place of the Reserve Scheme.
4.1. The proposed introduction of free bus travel nationally is to be strongly welcomed. However, TfL believes that any new initiative should not become the default bottom line in London. The Freedom Pass in the Capital is a successful and popular scheme, which has had a hugely positive effect on the quality of life of older people and people with
disabilities in London and is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of customers.