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TfL to hike congestion charge, halt free travel for kids and increase fares after Government bailout

Transport for London will have to introduce a series of temporary measures after it was given a £1.6 billion bailout by the Government. These include stopping free travel for children, reducing free travel for the over-60s and a 30% hike in the congestion charge for people driving into the centre of London.

There will also be a series of permanent changes, with fares on buses – scrapped to help protect bus drivers from coronavirus – being reintroduced, and tube and bus fares also increasing next year.

As part of funding agreed to keep Transport for London (TfL) operating after a huge drop in income from fares due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Department for Transport said it included a series of caveats "in order to safeguard services in the future".

Under the conditions of the deal, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed to ramping up service levels to 100% over the coming weeks.

What is changing?

As part of the funding deal, the following temporary measures have been agreed:

  • Free travel for children will be stopped on TfL services as "soon as practicable".
  • Freedom Pass and 60+ card concessions, which give free travel, will be suspended during peak hours, again as "soon as practicable".
  • From Monday, the congestion charge will be reintroduced (and it'll rise from 22 June 2020). The £11.50 congestion charge for people driving into the centre of the city will resume. At the moment this is only charged on weekdays, but from 22 June 2020 this will rise from £11.50 a day to £15, and the hours of operation will be extended to 7am until 10pm every day. This will be in place for one year, but could be made permanent.
  • The ultra low emission zone charge will return on Monday. This will be in operation for 24 hours a day (as it was previously) and there'll be no change to the £12.50 cost for most vehicles.

The following permanent measures have also been agreed:

  • Fares on buses will be reintroduced as soon as possible.
  • Above-inflation fare rises from next year, ending the four-year fares freeze. Fares will go up by RPI+1%. They've been frozen since 2016.

What do the Government and TfL say?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "People should avoid using public transport and work from home wherever possible, but as measures are slowly lifted, it is vital that Londoners who need to use TfL services feel safe and secure.

"We must drive an increase in services to support social distancing and ensure our capital keeps moving, driving the economic recovery of this country going forward. This deal will encourage a real move towards greener and healthier walking and cycling options, ease pressure on our public transport and provide certainty and stability for London's transport services in the future."

But London Mayor Sadiq Khan criticised the caveats added to the deal by the Government, saying it was "not the deal I wanted, but it was the only deal the Government put on the table".

He added: "I had no choice but to accept it to keep the tubes and buses running."

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