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Fares: Why MP Apsana Begum wants to go back to Ken Livingstone’s public transport ideas

PUBLISHED: 17:02 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 03 November 2020

Ken Livingstone... GLC leader who brought in subsidised fares in 1980s and later Congestion Charge as mayor of London. Picture: Lab Pty

Ken Livingstone... GLC leader who brought in subsidised fares in 1980s and later Congestion Charge as mayor of London. Picture: Lab Pty

Lab Pty

A call for subsidised bus and train fares like the days of Ken Livingstone’s “Fares Fair” policy paid for out of the rates has been made by an east London Labour MP to help today’s passengers hit by pay cuts during Covid.

MP Apsana Begum... calls for subsidised fares on public transport and reduced car use. Picture: ZoomMP Apsana Begum... calls for subsidised fares on public transport and reduced car use. Picture: Zoom

Apsana Begum’s call for a 1980s solution comes two days after TfL has secured a £1.8bn government bailout to keep Tube and bus services running until next March.

But such measures are needed for at least a year, the Poplar and Limehouse MP believes.

“Living standards are taking a real hit,” she said. “It’s on a scale that we haven’t seen since the early 1980s.

“Covid continues to paralyse the economy with workers losing jobs or having to take wage cuts. We need to ease the pressure on incomes.”

Ken Livingstone in Roman Road Market 2010 supporting Lutfur Rahman's campaign to be first Tower Hamlets executive mayor who later hires political advisors including Apsana Begum. Picture: Dan McCurryKen Livingstone in Roman Road Market 2010 supporting Lutfur Rahman's campaign to be first Tower Hamlets executive mayor who later hires political advisors including Apsana Begum. Picture: Dan McCurry

She wants fares subsidised on buses, the Underground, DLR, Overground and national rail within Greater London like they were when Livingstone ran the GLC before it was scrapped by prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The 1981 “Fares Fair” policy was brought in against a backdrop of soaring unemployment and depression of wages during the early years of the Thatcher government.

The doctrine that Livingstone brought in when he was Labour leader at County Hall hit the buffers after being challenged by Bromley Council and overturned in the High Court.

Thatcher abolished the GLC in 1986, but Livingstone went on to become a radical Left Wing MP and later London’s first executive mayor when he brought in the Congestion Charge against car use, but didn’t manage subsidised bus and Tube fares.

Apsana also calls for “reduced car use” along with subsidised fares. A return to subsidised fares after almost 40 years follows numbers using public transport in 2020 falling off the cliff because of the pandemic crisis, with general advice against travelling on safety grounds.


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