Boris Johnson Claims He’s Freezing London Underground Fares. Actually, They’re Going Up

When is a “fare increase” a “fare freeze”? When it’s by less than expected, apparently.

1. Londoners are likely to read headlines about a transport fare freeze today.

The Evening Standard was briefed in advance on today’s announcement of new London Underground and bus fares for 2014.

You could get the impression that the same amount of money will be leaving your bank account when you buy the first travelcard of the new year.

2. But the headline doesn’t quite tell the full story. Londoners will still pay more to travel next year.

Tyrone Siu / Reuters

The average London transport fare will rise by 3.1 per cent in 2014, so Londoners will collectively pay tens of millions of pounds more in fares during next year.

However, the percentage fare increase is the same as the RPI measure of inflation – ie, London transport costs are increasing at the same rate that the price of other items are increasing.

Johnson is therefore choosing to describe today’s announcement as a “real terms” freeze because everything else is getting expensive at the same rate.

But average UK wages are rising at just 0.7 per cent a year, so people have relatively less money to spend.

3. This is what you need to know about the cost of London transport in 2014.

4. You’re going to pay a few quid extra for a weekly travelcard.

People who commute in from Zone 6 will pay an extra £2.40 for a weekly travelcard, or £96 extra for an annual travelcard.

Transport for London says it has no choice but to increase the cost of travelcards by 4.1 per cent because the tickets allow holders to use national rail services, which are rising at this higher rate.

5. Oyster bus fares will rise by 5p to £1.45 a journey.

NiseriN/NiseriN

The cost of a weekly bus and tram-only pass will rise by 80p to £20.40.

6. But most Oyster pay-as-you-go tube fares really will be frozen in cash terms.

Photo Illustration by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

With the exception of journeys made entirely within Zone 1, all pay-as-you-go Oyster card tube and London Overground fares will remain at exactly the same cash price during 2014.

This means the most you should pay for unlimited travel within Zones 1-4 will remain at £10.60 for at least another twelve months, while a single peak time Oyster fare for the same zones will remain at £3.80.

7. In short, London transport fares really are going up – but by a smaller amount than most people expected.


Commuters will be happy that today’s announcement this marks an end to Boris Johnson’s policy of continued above-inflation fare increases. Over the last five years the Mayor has consistently pushed up transport costs to fund investment in the capital’s infrastructure.

This has reduced delays, helped pay for the introduction of new trains and paved the way for 24-hour tube trains.

But it also means that a bus fare has jumped from 90p to £1.45, while Zone 1-2 tube fares have increased from £2 to £2.80.

8. Just don’t ask the Mayor to explain the new charges to you. It won’t end well.

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