After housing, fares are one of the biggest costs most families face. Over recent years, the mayor has piled on the pressure, repeatedly increasing bus and tube fares by more than prices at just the moment when wages have stagnated. At the same time, commuters travelling into work by train have been hit by huge hikes in ticket prices. For all Londoners, but particularly those on low pay, there’s nothing fair about rising fares.
Soaring travel costs are not, though, simply a threat to family budgets. They also endanger London’s competitiveness. People pay more to travel to work in London than they do in other cities, not just in the UK but throughout Europe. And to ensure that London is the best city in the world to live, work and to do business, we have to address the gaps in connectivity and capacity which result from decades of under-investment. Rail travel in London and the south-east has grown by 60 per cent over the past two decades, while capacity has increased by only about 25 per cent. Transport for London forecasts 650,000 more rail trips per day into and around London by 2025.
Crossrail will allow us to start addressing these problems but, alone, it is insufficient. TfL estimates that Crossrail will add about 10 per cent to London’s transport capacity, but population growth in London is set to out-strip that. As London’s transport commissioner recognises, when Crossrail opens in three year’s time “it will immediately be full”.
It took six decades for Crossrail to get the green light. London cannot wait that long again for the next major high-capacity rail project. It is also an entirely false economy: it is estimated that, over time, the benefits to the country as a whole of Crossrail in terms of increased productivity, jobs and reduced journey times will be more than twice what it has cost to build.
We have to take action now to address this looming capacity crisis: one which threatens to make the morning and evening commute more and more unpleasant and will eventually cost London investment, jobs and opportunities as businesses decide they’ll set up in those cities which offer a 21st century transport infrastructure.
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