Ken Livingstone: 'I broke my promises on fares' (twice)

The excitement’s been building to fever pitch in the run-up to Ken’s rally tonight to promote his promised 5% fares cut. Key opinion formers famous for their finely honed judgment, such as Sally Bercow, have been flown in for the big event. Jarvis Cocker, Benjamin Zephaniah and the usual slightly predictable luminaries have signed the usual round-robin letter to the Guardian. The idea that we should approve of a policy because a singer does so is somehow both profoundly patronising and profoundly Eighties, isn’t it?

Without wishing to put a dampener on proceedings tonight, can I refer Jarvis, Sally et al to Ken’s recently-published autobiography if they want to know, in his own words, the real value of a Livingstone fares promise.

In his 2000 election campaign “I had promised to freeze bus fares and keep Tube fares in line with inflation,” writes Ken (page 491). Alas, by 2003, “the cost of running the buses was increasing with the price of oil, so I decided to increase the fares before the [2004] election and then promise they wouldn’t rise by more than inflation.”

Ah well, one promise broken, but another one made, at least. Alas, this second promise was to be dumped even quicker. Page 497 of the book relates how in August 2004, Ken got a call saying he would be allowed to borrow £2.9 billion for upgrades to the DLR, the East London Line and the North London Line.

“The sting in the tail was that I would have to increase the fares to service the debt,” Ken writes. “This meant breaking my promise not to raise fares faster than inflation, but given my contempt for Wilson and Callaghan – who cut investment rather than raise taxes – I took the deal.” Fares duly rose – by as much as 25 per cent in a single year.

Two explicit admissions, from Ken himself, that he broke his promises to hold down fares two elections running. For good measure, I revealed his secret plans to do the hat-trick before the 2008 election.

Every time Ken has made an election promise to hold down fares, he has broken it, or secretly planned to break it. And 2000, 2004 and 2008, of course, were days of plenty, when there was lots more money coming in from Whitehall.

Oddly enough, the need to maintain investment – and, with Crossrail, rather more of it than £2.9 billion – is Boris Johnson’s justification for raising fares, just as it was Ken’s. Ken has repeatedly described the fare rises as a “stealth tax.” But how convenient that he now seems to have forgotten his “contempt” for politicians who “cut investment rather than raise taxes.”



Boris Johnson's massive stealth fare rises: One Day Travelcards to rise by up to 74 per cent

Boris Johnson will oversee massive fare increases (Photo: AP)
Boris Johnson will oversee massive fare increases (Photo: AP)

The price of the Zone 1-2 one-day Travelcard will increase by almost 18 per cent in January – around four times the rate of inflation. The rise is one of a series of unnoticed, but hugely above-inflation, fare rises in One Day Travelcards and Oyster price caps that will hit thousands of users with rises of up to 74 per cent.

The rises are far higher than the average rise of 6.8 per cent briefed to the media today. A Zones 1 and 2 one-day off-peak Travelcard, a very popular ticket, will go up from £5.60 to £6.60 – a hike of 17.8 per cent.

Other one-day Travelcards (peak and off peak) will also rise by up to £1. The Oyster price cap on pay-as-you go fares will rise in each case by the same amount. The majority of One Day Travelcards currently sold will be withdrawn entirely – TfL calls it a “simplification.” The only one day cards now available, peak or off-peak, will be for zones 1-2, zones 1-4, and zones 1-6. This will mean further enormous rises for some users, particularly in the peak, who will be forced to pay for zones that they do not need.

Those travelling in the peak in zones 1-3, for instance, can currently buy a One Day Travelcard for £8.60. After January, they will have to buy a Zone 1-4 card costing £10. This is an increase of 16 per cent. Those travelling in the peak in zones 1-5 can currently buy a One Day card for £12.60. They will now have to buy a Zones 1-6 card for £15 – a rise of 19 per cent.

There aren’t off-peak versions of the 1-3 and 1-5 cards now, so off-peak users in these zones are less badly affected (they will still, of course, have to pay the general increase in the price of One Day Travelcards.)

However, One Day Travelcard users, peak and off-peak, who do not need to travel into Zone 1 will be worst hit of all.

The Zones 2-6 One Day Travelcard will be withdrawn. Users will have to buy a zones 1-6 Travelcard instead. In the peak this will mean a rise in price from £8.60 to £15 – an increase of 74 per cent. In the off-peak it will mean a rise from £5.10 to £8.00 –  an increase of 57 per cent.

All these changes are tucked coyly away in a “note to editors” near the bottom of TfL’s press release. The full prices of all the new cards are not given in the release, but they are shown below. The release also says that the new Oyster daily price caps on pay-as-you go fares will “mirror” the new Travelcard prices. Come January, some travellers are going to get very nasty shocks indeed.

One last little surprise: there is also a 50 per cent rise in the child One Day Travelcard, for children who need to use the Tube, from £2 to £3.

Boris has had a very easy ride from the press today – they don’t seem to have noticed these particular changes yet.

Update: TfL issued the following statement tonight and gave the full list of new prices (which are not shown in its press release.) “The fares package for 2011 will see fares rise on average by RPI plus 2 per cent as proposed last year. This is the minimum overall increase to protect vital investment in transport infrastucture and to protect frontline services.

“As with any fares package, there are some fares which rise more than others, while others will be frozen or fall.  One day off peak Travelcards have risen to bring them in line with other Travelcard prices, but are always cheaper than four off peak Tube journeys.  Using Oyster pay as you go will also always guarantee the lowest fare.

“Some very lightly used outside Zone One Travelcards have also been withdrawn and replaced with a Zone 2-6 Travelcards.”

One Day Travelcard prices

Product                                  Price Now           Price from Jan

Zone 1-2 offpeak                 5.60                      6.60

Zone 1-2 peak                       7.20                      8.00

Zone 1-4 offpeak                 6.30                      7.30

Zone 1-4 peak                      10.00                    10.00

Zone 1-6 offpeak                 7.50                       8.00

Zone 1-6 peak                      14.80                     15.00