1. The cost of a travelcard was due to rise by 4.1% on 3 January. But the increase has now been delayed – potentially until 19 January.
Such a delay is pretty much unprecedented.
It seems that there was a breakdown in communications between George Osborne and the team at City Hall led by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
The chancellor made a surprise decision to cap fare increases, which has thrown London’s plans into dissaray.
2. Transport for London has now confirmed to the London Assembly that they need more time to update their system.
It’s a pretty difficult task to update the system that decides what fare to charge someone when they’re heading across London’s transport network – there’s thousands of possible combinations.
The last-minute cap on fares means this update is going to take Transport for London longer than expected to implement, so they won’t meet the 3 January deadline.
A TfL representive today told the London Assembly that it typically takes around 30 days to update the organisation’s system – and did not deny that, as a result, the fare rise could now be delayed until 19 January. TfL’s press office did not respond to requests to confirm this date.
UPDATE: This has now been confirmed by the Mayor’s office.
3. The plus side: this means Londoners will be able to travel at 2013 prices for longer than expected.
Well that’s a few quid saved.
What’s more, the fares are going to rise by less than originlly announced in this table – for instance, a Zones 1-2 travelcard will now only increase from £30.40 to around £31.35 a week.
4. But the delay is pretty embarrassing for London’s politicians. Here’s why it’s happened.
5. Earlier this month Boris Johnson proudly announced the new transport prices as a “real terms freeze”.
What he meant was that the cost of travel would increase at the same rate as inflation.
It wasn’t quite as simple as that and travelcard prices were due to jump by 4.1 per cent.
Lots of careful modelling of different types of fares went into ensuring price rises could be kept down while fitting with Transport for London’s budget.
6. Two days later, George Osborne blew that work out of the water.
In a surprise move the Chancellor used his Autumn Statement on 5 December to cap all UK rail fare rises at 3.1% for 2014.
This meant Boris Johnson had inadvertantly pledged to hit London commuters with a larger price rise than travellers in the rest of the UK.
7. …this prompted a rushed response from Boris Johnson, who appeared to have had no advance warning of the decision.
As in previous years we look forward to receiving the additional funding from Government that will enable us to now hold Travelcard fare rises to RPI, in line with the rest of the country.
8. Boris eventually decided to raise fares by the smaller amount. Although this leaves questions about who’s going to make up the budget shortfall.
Assembly Member John Biggs said it was a “farcical” situation and said the Mayor should be “knocking on the door of 11 Downing Street demanding the Chancellor cough up that cash”.
9. …while the confusion has also delayed a planned trial of payment by contactless debit cards on the London Underground.
TfL needs all hands on deck to update the fares system.
10. There’s a lot of people at TfL who will be unexpectedly working hard over Christmas.
But cheaper travel for the rest of us in those first hungover days of the new year.