The Conservatives – the party of “Maggie Thatcher – Milk Snatcher!” when they took away kids’ school milk in the 1970s – is now pushing ahead with demands to remove free travel on London’s buses, Tubes and trams for most children.
The plan to end free travel for 11- to 17-year-olds was one of the strings Transport Secretary Grant Shapps attached to the Tory government’s £1.6billion coronavirus bailout for Transport for London that was agreed in June.
The move to end free travel for school children was immediately attacked by opposition politicians, who said it will “will hit poorest Londoners hardest” and who described it as “misguided, complex and simply wrong”.
The measures will be introduced after the October half-term.
The decision to end free school travel was confirmed in a letter to TfL from the unelected and unaccountable Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Who she? Ed).
The government line is that the move will aid social distancing during the covid-19 recovery.
In reality, Dominic Cummings and the anti-London Tories are deliberately loading this unpopular measure, together with the price hike on the Congestion Charge, on a Labour Mayor just months before there is due to be an election in the desperate hope they might pick up a few extra votes as a result.
Caroline Pidgeon, the LibDem Assembly Member who is deputy chair of the transport committee at City Hall, said, “The policy of free travel for young people that has existed since 2005 should not be altered. The last thing young people and low-income households need is to face a further challenge this autumn.”
Pidgeon called the government’s move “misguided, complex and simply wrong”.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has called on the government drop the plans.
The Mayor’s spokesman yesterday said that the policy “will hit the poorest Londoners hardest and place significant administrative and financial burdens on already stretched schools and local authorities.
“Rather than forcing this measure through, the government should work with TfL to find a better solution that doesn’t risk hitting the poorest Londoners hardest.”
In a letter to TfL (which you can read in full by downloading a pdf by clicking here), Baroness Vere (a former head of the Girls’ Schools Association, since you asked, and failed Tory parliamentary candidate) said the government plans to start the temporary suspension of free travel for 11- to 17-year-olds “immediately after October Half Term” (which is due to run from October 24 to October 28).
In order to reach this date, Baroness Vere said it is “vital” TfL continue to work “closely and collaboratively” with the Department for Transport.
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