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article imageOp-Ed: The scandalous cost of travel in London

By Alexander Baron     Feb 28, 2013 in Travel
London - The cost of travel in London is nothing short of scandalous, but the powers-that-be are intent on screwing even more out of their captive audience.
Yesterday I travelled into Central London for the first time since New Year's Eve. I realised the cost of an off-peak travel card had risen again, but when the guy in the booking office at Sydenham Station told me it was £8.00, I couldn't quite believe it. I took a bus to Peckham where after brunching with the executor of the late David Webb I left his office with two massive lever arch files of documents to scan for the soon to come NCROPA Archive - watch this space.
A one day  off-peak travel card for London is now an extortionate £8.00.
A one day, off-peak travel card for London is now an extortionate £8.00.
I took another bus to the Elephant & Castle, and when I disembarked there was a gaggle of ticket inspectors and nearly as many police officers checking people's tickets as they got off.
I crossed the road to the mainline station where I boarded another train to Kings Cross St Pancras en route to the British Library, and would you believe as the train pulled into Blackfriars Station another two ticket inspectors were making their way through the carriages?
This begs the question, how much money could Transport For London save if they sacked all those ticket inspectors?
A character named Diamond Geezer has very kindly compiled this chart which shows the way the cost of travel in the capital has risen over the past few years. If you go back to the 1970s you will get a real shock.
The good thing for me is that now as a very infrequent traveller this hit in the wallet isn't too bad, but for the commuter - a captive audience - it is nothing less than extortionate. And if you're driving?
The Automobile Association has published some horrific figures on its website. For London, in addition to parking charges and possibly parking fines, there is the congestion charge, which can be paid through the TFL website.
According to the AA, when it first began publishing this sort of data, the annual road tax on a car was £10 and a litre of petrol cost 3.3p. Although the AA warns against direct comparisons, this is still a massive gap, especially for petrol. Most of this price is tax. So what can be done for the capital and the rest of the country?
The extortionate cost of travel is a tax not only on consumption but on production. Private sector employers have to factor all costs into the cost of production, this includes paying their staff, and if staff can't afford to travel to work, they will soon become non-staff. Then there are all the jobs that could have been created but won't. And if the cost of travel becomes too extortionate, it will flatline the economy. To see how this must be the case, imagine what would happen if the tax on petrol were increased to £1,000 a gallon. No one would be able to afford to drive. Okay, that may sound silly, but every small rise in the cost of travel pushes us in that direction as surely as every day you live brings you that bit closer to the hour of your death.
So again, what is to be done? What is not to be done is for the Chancellor to continue to use either the motorist or the broader travelling public as a cash cow. As far as public transport is concerned, consider the self-evident fact that a train that carries a hundred passengers is hardly anymore expensive to run than one that carries ten.
I have long argued for a totally fare-free public transport system, which could work in London and other large cities if not the entire country.
Of course, there is no way this will happen, but there have been and are attempts worldwide to implement such schemes, albeit with varying degrees of success, on limited scales and in places with relatively small populations. This is an idea that needs to be explored and expanded.
Currently, public transport in this country is largely in the hands of private companies, which are subsidised by the taxpayer. This is total lunacy, and they should be taken back into public ownership. You wouldn't subsidise a supermarket chain or a furniture store, so why should you subsidise a private company that picks your pocket to move you for A to B?
We must also continue to develop alternative energies, because every kilowatt derived from the Sun, the wind or the waves means less oil and less gas to import, which means in turn a cheaper, and cleaner product, and ultimately less pollution in our cities, not to mention cheaper train fares.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about transport for london, one day travel card, congestion charge
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