Tory Barwell backs Labour’s commuter zones campaign

Conservative MP Gavin Barwell is publicly supporting a campaign launched this week by Sarah Jones, the Labour candidate aiming to win the Croydon Central seat from him at next May’s General Election.

Gavin Barwell is backing a Labour campaign to get Tory Mayor Boris Johnson to change the fare zones

Gavin Barwell is backing a Labour campaign to get Tory Mayor Boris Johnson to change the fare zones

Barwell has even signed the petition calling on the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to re-zone Croydon’s rail stations and so reduce the fares paid by local commuters to travel into central London.

Jones, together with the Lambeth South MP, Steve Reed OBE, launched the campaign on Monday, calling for East Croydon and West Croydon to be re-assigned by Transport for London from Zone 5 to Zone 4.

Barwell will undoubtedly attempt to characterise his support for Labour’s campaign as some form of “new” or consensus politics. But given the lingering doubts of his being able to hold on to his marginal Croydon Central seat, the less naive will suggest that after more than five years of doing nothing on this specific issue, Barwell is now chasing after a bandwagon that has already left the station.

Labour gets in the zone: Steve Reed OBE, Sarah Jones and a local council alickadoo launching the re-zoning campaign that overlooked South Croydon Station, but it isn't a stunt

Labour gets in the zone: Steve Reed OBE, Sarah Jones and a local council alickadoo launching the re-zoning campaign that overlooked South Croydon Station, but it isn’t a stunt

“I fully support any initiative that reduces the spiraling costs for commuters in Croydon,” Barwell said after Jones had launched the campaign on Monday.

Barwell had roped into his press release Steve O’Connell, his Tory colleague and the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton.

In doing so, Barwell has tried to broaden the focus for re-zoning to Sutton, Cheam and elsewhere in south London. Of course, the more stations which are considered for re-zoning, the more expensive, in reduced fare income, it becomes for TfL. And also, the weaker the case for re-zoning might become, increasing the risk of the campaign failing to succeed.

“It’s not credible to pretend that this is just a Croydon problem – and indeed it’s in our interests to involve other areas that are similarly unfairly treated,” Barwell claimed, announcing that, after five years of doing nothing on the issue, he and O’Connell had requested a meeting with TfL director Sir Peter Hendy and the Mayor “to seek their support for a review of the zone boundaries”.

As is the nature of these things, nothing will be decided for at least a year – by which time Barwell may no longer be in parliament, but Boris will, as MP for Uxbridge and already looking well beyond his current part-time job as London Mayor.

In the meantime, Jones has rejected claims – aired on Inside Croydon – that her campaign is just an “election stunt”.

“Now is precisely the right time to be fighting for Croydon,” Jones said. “South London has to be the Mayor’s priority.”

Jones believes that her proposals have a good chance of succeeding. “My sources at TfL say that if you make the economic case, you stand a chance.”

Asked to explain why South Croydon Station – in the Croydon Central constituency – was not included in her original proposals, even though it is regarded as one and the same as East and West Croydon for fare-setting purposes on the national rail network, Jones said, “I think a much stronger case is focused around East and West – I want to win this so there will be a long process of making the economic case and running the numbers to see.

“If you look at the map of the zones, you need to shave a small amount off Zone 5 to include East and West Croydon. Including all the Croydon stations would completely change the boundaries. It’s also about making the right case or we won’t win. Has to be about the regeneration in the centre of Croydon – Westfield, housing, jobs. The right answer at the right time.”

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3 Responses to Tory Barwell backs Labour’s commuter zones campaign

  1. Peter Rogers says:

    I think it’s safe to assume Gav rang Boris and asked permission first

  2. joeycan says:

    It hasn’t taken long before Sarah Jones’s eminently sensible suggestion to extend Zone 4 to include West and East Croydon Stations has been hijacked by the MP for Croydon Central. Not that he could have avoided such an action, given that the idea provides much valuable Labour clout when it come to the possible de-election of Gavin next year.

    A word of caution however,; the enthusiasm with which Major Boris might show for the proposal, in support of his Conservative colleague may well result in the people of Croydon being handed an option – extend Zone 4 to include West and East Croydon but lose funding for the new Tramlink development because there is not cash for both.

    • The Tramlink extension to Crystal Palace, which has thrice been promised by Boris Johnson when seeking elected office as Mayor of London, is not an option, Joey.

      There is absolutely no money set aside for such a project in TfL’s five-year strategic plan, so it is fair to suggest that it will not happen in that time frame (and by 2017, Boris will be long gone, on to other, more important things, such as his own career).

      So if Boris wants to support the re-zoning scheme, and not disappoint his old mucker Gav, then TfL will need to rob another Peter to pay for this particular Paul.

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