Transport poverty challenges in central London
Transport poverty impacts on peoples’ lives more than we would think. Whilst the conversation around poverty in London is often in relation to housing costs and food security (and rightly so), transport poverty is a lesser-considered part of life for many people in the capital. Londoners spend the highest amount in the UK on transport (an average of £137 a month) , yet live in a region with the highest levels of poverty in the UK.
Last week, Centre for London launched a report outlining the numerous equity challenges London’s transport network faces and the barriers that disproportionately hinder some Londoners from accessing essential public services such as work, schools and hospitals.
The report highlights how the current ‘build it and they will come’ attitude to transport planning and the provision of public transport services is not fit for purpose and does not consider all London residents equally. It also identifies how the negative effects of poor provision (such as air pollution and road danger) disproportionately affects groups such as ethnic minorities and those on low incomes.
According to Centre for London, young people are more likely to face high rental costs but are also less likely to be high earners, meaning the cost of travel is hitting this group particularly hard. This compounding lack of affordability presents a serious barrier to young peoples’ movement.
At the heart of the issue is the need for a mixture of interventions. The first of these: ensuring that access to the existing network is equitable. Reconsidering how existing resources might be reallocated could be key to ensuring that concessionary travel schemes are targeted at the groups facing the most significant challenges.
Centre for London raises the need to means-test the existing concessions to ensure that they are targeted at the groups most in need. Perhaps the best concession to explore this with is the 60+ Oyster card, which grants people in the age bracket of 60-65 free travel on all TfL services. This age bracket is the wealthiest in the UK , and the majority are still in work. However, it’s important to ensure that London’s older residents are able to enjoy full mobility in order to safeguard against social isolation and loneliness. With almost a fifth of pensioners living in poverty, the Freedom Pass (65+) is a key public service to ensure these Londoners are able to access public services.
The Centre for London report has brought accessible and affordable transport to the forefront of our minds. Going forward, we must focus our interventions on actions that are both feasible within the existing financial framework of the local authorities and TfL, and encourage equity in our transport networks.
1: Fair Access Report, Centre for London
2: Social Metrics Commission 2019 Report, Social Metrics Commission
3: ‘How wealthy are you?’ Resolution Foundation/ bbc.co.uk
Ellie Mitchell, 11.12.19