Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the upcoming suspension of free travel in London for under 18s, as part of the Government’s funding deal with Transport for London (TfL).
I share your concerns surrounding the suspension, and the potential impact this could have on the safety and education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Suspending free travel for young people – at a time when household finances are stretched more than ever, and employment is precarious – will hit those on low incomes hardest.
The Department for Transport has confirmed it is working closely with TfL and the Department for Education on how the temporary suspension will work. The Government has said the suspension will help to “reduce demand for public transport so that those who need to use it can do so safely.”
I believe the Government should hold a public consultation on the proposals, given that many families and young people will have made education and living choices based on the availability of free travel.
The Mayor of London has highlighted that children and young people in some of the most deprived areas in London are exposed to the highest road danger risk and I share concerns about the overall equality impact of these proposals. He has written to the Transport Secretary to state that families who might not have a choice but to use public transport should not be further disadvantaged, especially at a time when households are already suffering because of the pandemic. I agree that parents should not be pushed further into poverty to pay for their children to get to school.
The Government has said any child eligible for free home to school travel under the Education Act 1996 will still receive it. The Department for Transport is also completing an Equality Impact Assessment, which will consider whether there are further categories of children that should receive free transport.
I raised this issue in the Commons at the end of June and will continue to follow developments of the assessment closely.