Londoners taken for ride over fares

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Indy Lifestyle Online
London transport fares are among the highest in Europe, according to the London Research Centre. The report reveals that, on average, public travel is more expensive than any of the other European capitals surveyed.

Transport experts say the high London fares are due to the lower government subsidy for public transport.

The survey was conducted among 14 major cities mainly in Europe. Only New York, Tokyo and Munich turned out to have more expensive public transport than London.

Cheaper cities included Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Dublin and Madrid. For Londoners using the cheapest Tube and bus fares available, the typical weekly travel bill is pounds 8.81.

That compares with pounds 2.55 a week in Rome and pounds 7.51 in Paris. Athens has the cheapest public transport at pounds 2.37 a week and Munich the most expensive at pounds 8.81.

'It's quite obvious why we have higher fares than most other European cities,' said London Transport. 'They get higher levels of public subsidy than us. Without more public money there's a limit to what we can do.'

In 1993-94, London Transport received pounds 693m from the Government compared with pounds 883m in 1992-1993. The Government said that it had no plans to increase subsidies to the same level as on the continent. 'In other European capitals they put a greater burden on the taxpayer. We believe it's for the farepayer to contribute as well,' said a spokesman.

The report, the most comprehensive carried out, divided bus and Tube users into three categories: working age, retirement age and 11-15 year olds.

It found that Londoners of working age typically pay pounds 11.28 a week. That is higher than in all other European capitals surveyed and Tokyo.

Only Munich and New York, where working-age travellers pay an average of pounds 19.51 a week, have higher fares.

But children under 16, who qualify for discount fares, have a relatively good deal in London. They travel more cheaply than all other European cities bar Athens, Lisbon and Madrid.

London is the only city surveyed where pensioners travel free. That is because the city's boroughs jointly donate pounds 115m a year towards free travel for women over 60 and men over 65.

Age Concern England, which campaigns for elderly people, welcomed the findings. 'For retired people public transport is essential to being part of the community. If they can't get out they are completely cut off. They can't visit relatives or pick up their pension book.'

Pensioners account for 14 per cent of London Transport's market. Commuters living in outer London who use the bus and Tube to get to work account for the biggest share of the market at 20 per cent.

Greenpeace said pollution would increase unless people were encouraged to leave cars at home. 'We've had pollution incidents every day this summer. We've got to get people off the roads,' said Charlie Kronick, campaigner. 'This just confirms what people who use public transport say: if it's cheaper they'll use it.'

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