‘Don’t scrap free travel for under-18s just to cover TfL bailout’ Tower Hamlets mayor pleads

PUBLISHED: 10:00 26 June 2020

Tower Hamlets mayor fears 'blanket ending' of furlough could cost jobs in the East End. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets mayor fears 'blanket ending' of furlough could cost jobs in the East End. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Calls to restore free travel for under-18s and to remove the ban on over-60s peak hour travel have been made to the government by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and London Assembly members.

John Biggs... John Biggs... "Scrapping free travel punishes those on low income when money is stretched." Picture: Mike Brooke

The restrictions were made conditions of TfL’s £1.6billion bailout to prevent financial melt-down because of the Coronavirus emergency.

But John Biggs warns scrapping free travel will hit some of the poorest families in the East End.

“Avoid travelling on public transport because of the pandemic isn’t possible for many people,” the mayor said. “Schools and workplaces are beginning to reopen.

“Scrapping free travel punishes people with low or no income at a time when money is being stretched more than ever.”

London Assembly's Unmesh Desai... London Assembly's Unmesh Desai... "Ill-thought out decision will add to financial burden needlessly." Picture: Mike Brooke

He is calling on Downing Street to meet TfL and City Hall and reverse the measures brought in on June 15 stopping over-60s using their Freedom passes at peak times and stopping free travel for under-18s.

London Assembly’s Unmesh Desai, who represents east London at City Hall, said: “It’s inexcusable that the TfL bailout caused by the Covid-19 is being used to take away the lifeline of free travel. This ill-thought out decision will add to financial burdens needlessly.”

Many people over 60 are key workers unable to work from home who still need to use public transport at peak times, he points out.

Revenue from fares fell when the lockdown began in March, leaving TfL “in a desperate situation”. But families on the poverty line are also in desperate need, the local authority points out, with schools and workplaces slowly begin to reopen and having to rely on public transport.

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