Lib Dems Want Free Travel for Under 18s Reinstated

Andrew Steed says it is the wrong time to make getting to school more expensive

Councillors Gary Malcolm and Andrew Steed at a bus stop in Acton Green

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Many people who use public transport will be aware that as part of the agreement to keep Transport for London (TfL) afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conservative government imposed a series of severe conditions on Mayor Khan and TfL.

In broad terms many of the concessionary fares have been swept away leaving huge numbers of people in our area who will lose transports entitlements in terms of if and when they can travel for free.

Liberal Democrats have strong concerns with the whole package, and a particular worry about the plans for under 18s. Pre lock-down children made 1.5 million bus journeys a day and 200,000 tube journeys. This removal of concessions for young people seems particularly unfortunate, at a time when so many parents are worried about access to education.

The majority of young people are missing out on aspects of their education and there is a significant number who have had little formal teaching for a full term. Making it more difficult, by making it more expensive, to get to school will not help. Inevitably those from poorer households will suffer most, only increasing education inequalities.

Government research showed that giving under 18s free travel generates lots of benefits and so taking that away goes against their own research. The Conservatives clearly do not seem to care for many vulnerable families.

In a survey of two thousand 16-18 year olds, Partnership for Young London, a city based charity, found two thirds expressed concerns about how their parents would be able to pay. In addition, 70% of this age group used a bus to get to school or college. The one positive development is that the survey found that over 50% of this group would cycle or walk to their place of learning, in contrast to the 7% who currently use these modes of transport.

The Liberal Democrats put forward a motion to Ealing Council which urged the dropping of the proposal to remove concessionary travel for under 18s. This was agreed locally by both Ealing Conservatives and Ealing Labour at the last Ealing Full Council meeting.

The wealth of public opinion against this strange, ill thought out deal behind closed door by TfL and the Tory government shows that we need to protect our under 18s. The government and TfL need to cancel those plans and soon.

Councillor Andrew Steed

Southfield ward councillor for the Liberal Democrats

August 1, 2020