How 15,000 Tower Hamlets schoolkids will be hit if under-18 free fares are scrapped on the buses
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Thousands of youngsters in the East End may soon be hit when free travel on public transport for under-18 is scrapped.
Up to 15,000 Tower Hamlets secondary pupils may have to fork out whenever they go on a bus or train with government plans to end the public transport concessions, including 8,000 aged 11 to 15 and 6,800 who are 16 or 17.
An appeal is now being made to Downing Street to make a U-turn on withdrawing free fares after the pandemic emergency ends.
“The government should not be punishing youngsters,” Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs urged.
“It will hurt some of the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, right at a time when finances are being stretched more than ever.”
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People “did the right thing” and avoided public transport during the lockdown, which hit TfL’s finances hard, the mayor points out.
The government then imposed “what seems to be a politically-motivated bailout piling debt on TfL and scrapping free travel for under-18s”.
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The government signalled last week that it would delay its proposed changes until after the October half-term.
But City Hall fears the impact would be the same whenever the cuts come — hitting the poorest families hardest.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is now urging ministers also to “do the right thing” and drop their demand to suspend free travel.
He said: “It isn’t right that poorer children are expected to face extra barriers for returning to education, or having their choices made on whether they can afford to get on a bus.”
The move is seen at City Hall as placing admin and financial burdens on already-stretched schools and local authorities.
There are 8,000,000 journeys by under-18s made all over London in any school week. Social distancing means many journeys may have to be walking or cycling.
But some may still need to be on buses or trains. City Hall says it doesn’t want the burden of paying for these journeys shifted onto parents during hardships which have been added to by the pandemic crisis.