Schedule 1 — The London Free Travel Scheme

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:30 pm on 28th June 2007.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Minister, Transport 4:30 pm, 28th June 2007

Amendment No. 4 deals with Transport for London charges for permits and seeks to change the reserve concessionary travel scheme in London, so that if London boroughs consider the amount that Transport for London wants to charge is excessive, the boroughs can ask the Secretary of State to arbitrate.

The London reserve free travel scheme is set out in section 241 and schedule 16 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It applies only to London, and in negotiating travel concessions London Councils has to reach agreement with TfL on a scheme for its services by 31 December prior to the financial year for which the scheme comes into effect.

If no agreement is reached, the statutory reserve scheme, at a cost determined by TfL, comes into effect. That puts London Councils at a disadvantage when negotiating with TfL, because TfL can determine the costs of the reserve scheme. In effect, uniquely for London, the costs of the concessionary fares scheme are determined by the operators who benefit, whereas elsewhere they are determined by the local authorities, subject to appeal to the Secretary of State.

By way of explaining why the amendment is needed, I refer to a recent example of how TfL is acting in relation to concessionary fares. The reserve scheme covers all the services provided or procured by TfL. As a result of TfL taking over responsibility for the North London Railway franchise from next November, concessions for that route will form part of the reserve scheme for the first time. London boroughs had no say about that. The amount that TfL will get for concessions on those services is currently under negotiation. I understand that TfL has suggested that London Councils should pay around £1 million for the concessions. London Councils currently pays the Association of Train Operating Companies only about £600,000 for those concessions. Nothing will have changed when the new scheme comes into operation next year, yet TfL has insisted that the London boroughs should pay two thirds more than is currently the case by paying directly to ATOC. There is no appeal, and London boroughs will have to pay up.

Despite claims by the Mayor of London, the amendment is not about seeking to water down or change London's freedom pass. For the past 23 years, London boroughs have paid for the freedom pass. The scheme provides older and disabled Londoners with free travel on all the capital's buses, trains, tubes and trams, and the amendment is not an attempt to change that. It is designed to ensure that the London boroughs are put on the same level playing field as other boroughs, so that if there is no agreement on the amount that the concession should cost, the Secretary of State can arbitrate on it. That is a fair and reasonable request, and I am prepared to press the amendment to a vote.