free travel for all in London?

‘Scrap £30m free travel for TfL families and flatmates’

transport for london

Transport for London

Pippa Crerar, City Hall Editor
1 Feb 2011
Boris Johnson was under pressure today to axe a free travel perk that extends to partners or even friends and flatmates of Transport for London staff after the bill neared £30 million.

The Mayor faces cross-party opposition to the perk which is claimed by people nominated by TfL staff. The only rule is that they must live at the same address as the employee. All 28,000 staff are also entitled to free travel.

Lib-Dem and Tory Assembly members have questioned whether a free Oyster card is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money as fares increase and budgets are being cut. But transport unions – already engaged in a series of disputes with the Mayor – are likely to mount a vigorous defence of it.

According to the latest figures, 14,827 take up the offer. If all of these nominated individuals were issued with a Zone 1 to 6 travel card at £2,016 a year it would cost TfL up to £30 million.

The TfL figures do not include staff who work for maintenance company Tube Lines or the bus companies. Mr Johnson is under pressure to scrap the perk in his budget. Critics have focused on claimants who have no family relationship with the TfL employee. Lib-Dem leader on the Assembly Caroline Pidgeon said: “Staff should retain rights to free travel, but it costs £30 million a year to allow TfL employees to nominate a friend or family member to get free travel. This money could go towards holding down fares. It is madness that friends, family members and even lodgers of TfL staff can get free travel.”

It is estimated that £30 million could pay for 157 double-deck buses or significantly reduce the rise in fares this year. Tory Gareth Bacon said: “In the economic context I find it very surprising that TfL thinks its acceptable to use taxpayers’ money to fund free travel for people who don’t work for TfL.” A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “Staff travel passes are a long-standing benefit for TfL staff and the Mayor is content they have proved a key way to recruit and keep hold of staff. He has no intention of withdrawing it.”

This I saw in the paper on Tuesday……makes for interesting reading and I wonder what the outcome will be. What are your thoughts on this?  Should they scrap the scheme? Make it for staff only?  Let me know…..

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