Opinion – London Mayoral Election: How Will The TfL Policies Affect The Common Londoner?
There is only a day left to decide which candidate to vote for in the mayoral election as Boris Johnson steps down as London Mayor. The two front-runners, Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith, have had very public clashes both personally and regarding their policies, with public transport being one of the most persistent – but does that mean they have the solution for a less expensive future for London?
Khan seems to have made the most radical promise by intending to freeze Transport for London fares for four years if he becomes Mayor. This sounds like a good option considering the increasing ticket price this year, but there are concerns on how Khan is planning to fund it. Should Londoners expect higher taxes if he is elected?
According to Khan it should only cost around £450 million, with no higher taxes or other methods of demanding more money from Londoners. However TfL themselves says that it will cost four times as much, with a price of £1.9 billion. Khan has denied this, claiming there is no hidden trap in his plan. However, the fare freeze seems almost too good to be true, even though the Labour MP wrote in the Evening Standard of how he would find and save money:
“I’ll capitalise on TfL’s global reputation as one of the world’s finest transport authorities by setting up a bidding team in TfL so Londoners can get the same benefits. We should be running buses and trains across the UK and the rest of the world — selling expertise and skills like engineering to the public and private sector, and seeing other cities’ buses and trains branded with London’s famous roundel.”
Is this wishful thinking? Realistically, one could risk seeing expenses via taxes go up at the same time as public transport fares freeze. However, Khan did not express any plans of improving the TfL system, and the tube is sure to be more crowded if the ticket prices freeze, meaning commuters’ everyday travel journey during rush hour could get much worse.
Goldsmith called Khan’s freeze a ‘reckless experiment’, and was quoted in a Guardian article saying that:
“It’s not just vital to keeping London moving, it’s also key to unlocking the land to build the homes London so badly needs. That’s why I’ll protect investment in London’s transport system. And it’s why Sadiq Khan’s £1.9bn black hole in the transport budget would be such a dangerous experiment, bringing gridlock to our capital, fewer new homes and meaning council tax hikes for every family in Greater London.”
The Conservative MP’s strategy differs greatly here, as he does not want to ‘risk freezing the fares.’ His plan of improving TfL is by simply investing more money to upgrade the tube and overground. But this could also be expensive, as this could potentially create an even higher rise of TfL fares, and lead to a lot of construction work over the next few years. The general hope is for London to, in some areas at least, become cheaper than it currently is, with transport being one of the major factors. But the different polices from Labour and the Conservatives seems contradicting and financially uncertain, making this year’s election a tough one.
Looking at the other candidates from the smaller parties, the Green Party’s Sian Berry wants to lower fares for outer London and create fewer zones, as well as introduce a ‘ONE Ticket’ which allows commuters to change between different modes of public transport to reach their destination. While Ukip’s Peter Whittle wants to open the tube around the clock, seven days a week, as well as have only one fare for multiple bus journeys.
It is certainly a significant policy to consider here in Islington, as it is a densely developed borough, with transport-related land use (footways, roads and rail) making up about 26.5 per cent of the borough’s land. Therefore transport links can get highly congested during rush hour. The Islington Council released a factsheet on transport in the borough in 2015, which read: “The development of Islington’s transport network must be considered carefully to mitigate and reduce its negative impacts whilst providing transport opportunities to all residents, business and visitors to the borough.” So the next Mayor will have to think long and hard about the issue of transport.
However, the cost of public transport investments and funding may not be the main consideration for the voters. The most likely candidates to win, can also bring something different as a London Mayor: for instance, Khan’s working class and Muslim background would reflect a more cosmopolitan London, that is for once led by a Mayor who is not educated at Eton and Oxford. Goldsmith on the other hand has an aristocratic background, but is also an environmentalist that could lead to a positive change regarding London’s air pollution.
The full list of candidates for London Mayor:
- Sadiq Khan, Labour Party
- Zac Goldsmith, Conservative Party
- Sian Berry, Green Party of England and Wales
- David Furness, British National Party
- George Galloway, Respect Party
- Paul Golding, Britain First
- Lee Harris, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol
- Ankit Love, One Love Party
- Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrats
- Sophie Walker, Women’s Equality Party
- Peter Whittle, UK Independent Party
- Prince Zylinski, Independent