Mayor Meets Young People Campaigning Against Government’s Travel Ban
16th October 2020

Mayor Meets Young People Campaigning Against Government’s Travel Ban

  • Sadiq Khan has repeatedly called on the Government to drop their demand to suspend free travel for under 18s in London
  • The Government rationale for the concession to be scrapped was to reduce demand on the network, but Zip card data shows trips made by children on public transport are already down nearly a third as many young people are making journeys by bike or on foot where possible.
  • This reduced demand is about twice as big as the reduction TfL expected to see were it to begin charging children for travel
  • YouGov polling by Child Poverty Action Group has found almost a quarter (22%) of parents surveyed believe they would need to cut back on food to pay for travel

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, on the 12th October hosted a virtual roundtable with young people who are campaigning against the Government’s damaging plan to suspend free travel for under 18s.

The Mayor heard directly from a group of young campaigners about their concerns and listened to their personal stories. Sadiq pledged his continued support and reiterated that he will do all he can to urge Ministers to rethink their proposals, which will hit the poorest Londoners hardest and risk making the journeys of young people in the capital less safe, especially with darker mornings and evenings during winter.

The Government insisted that suspending free travel for under 18s was a condition of the emergency funding package agreed for TfL in May to reduce demand and avoid overcrowding. Since then, however, TfL has made great progress in enabling more young people to make journeys by bike and on foot through its world-leading Streetspace measures, leading to reduced demand for public transport from under-18s. Zip card data from the first few weeks since the start of the school year has shown that the total daily number of journeys made by children are on average almost a third lower compared to this time last year – which shows young people are using alternative means of travel where possible. This drop in demand is about twice as big as the reduction TfL expected to see were it to begin charging children for travel.

Some journeys by under-18s still need to be made by public transport which is why TfL has added over 200 ‘school services’ buses to help young people make safe and reliable journeys to school in a socially distanced way. City Hall does not want the burden of paying for these journeys shifted on to councils and parents during this crisis, when finances are stretched more than ever. Modelling by London Councils has found local authorities face an estimated annual bill of £27 million were the changes to go ahead, and it would cost parents even more – an estimated £83 million a year.

An online YouGov poll commissioned by Child Poverty Action Group’s ‘Don’t Zap the Zip’ campaign found:

  • over half (54%) of parents believe they would have to cut back on something else if the suspension went ahead, with 41% saying they would have to cut back on food
  • almost three quarters of young people surveyed (74%) use their Zip card to get to school or college
  • more than a quarter of all children surveyed (26%) and more than a third (36%) of those in low-income families worry that scrapping free travel would limit their options for school/college places (or workplaces for apprenticeship/training placements)
  • almost half of young people (45%) said they would have to cut back on seeing friends and family if free travel was scrapped.

There are at least two online petitions calling for the temporary suspension of under-18s free travel to be scrapped, including one which has had over 215,000 signatures – meaning that Parliament will consider holding a debate on the issue. Meanwhile the Government has yet to publish its Equality Impact Assessment for its proposals.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Suspending free travel for under-18s would be hugely damaging for Londoners. Young people, like those I’m meeting have been campaigning against the Government’s proposals and have done a brilliant job in speaking up for themselves and their peers.

“We cannot have the poorest young Londoners – who are already at risk of falling behind because of missed learning during the pandemic – doubly disadvantaged by losing the lifeline that is free travel. Ministers must scrap their demands and instead work with TfL and City Hall to find a better solution that doesn’t hit the poorest Londoners hardest.”

Joshua Brown-Smith, Chair of Young Advisors for Lewisham Council, said: “It’s not right that the Government is punishing young Londoners by suspending free travel. Young people have suffered enough during the six months of lockdown, missing education and staying at home. They need to be able to get safely to school with free travel. All my friends rely on Zip Cards – it’s not fair that they and their parents should be worrying about fares. This is a plea to the government to reverse its decision and start sympathising with young people.”