Boost for Londoners hit by cost-of-living crisis as 'real-terms Tube and bus fares freeze' in January announced

But unions denounce news as 'politicised stunt' in wake of scandal over Boris Johnson's comments about people with low IQs

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The Independent Online

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced that fares for public transport in the capital are set to be “frozen” in line with inflation for 2014.

It means that on average prices will not change in real terms, as fares for bus, Tube and tram rides go up by just 3.1 per cent – equal to the RPI inflation rate set in July this year.

While the news was hailed as a victory for millions of commuters facing a “cost-of-living crisis”, some will be affected more than others when prices change. A season ticket covering six Underground zones is still set to rise higher than inflation, going up 4.3 per cent to £2,320.

The same increase applies to a seven-day Travelcard ticket for six zones, which will go up from £55.60 to £58.00 in January.

Nonetheless, unlike mainline fares which are set to go up on average by the RPI rate plus 1 per cent, Mr Johnson has, on average, frozen the London fares in real terms.

He said today: “This package, which has been made possible by the continuing delivery of efficiencies across TfL, ensures that fares remain affordable and that we have the level of funding we need to continue to improve the network and deliver even better, more frequent services for everyone.

“I know that families and working Londoners who have helped the drive the economic recovery still face real pressure over the cost of living and so I've decided to keep fares in line with RPI and therefore freeze them in real terms for next year.”

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA rail union, welcomed the news: “We are delighted that millions of commuters will benefit from the fact that Boris and the Tories are now running scared from Labour's attack on the cost-of-living crisis facing hard-working families.

He nonetheless said his union wanted to see an end to annual inflation rises altogether, adding: “We have the highest fares in Europe and it is high time they were frozen.”

RMT union general secretary Bob Crow was much more scathing, saying: “The truth is that, with many people facing pay freezes or cuts, these fare increases will still hit London's poorest the hardest.

“The cynical attempt to play off fares against cuts to jobs, services and safety will fool no-one as this highly politicised stunt unravels for Boris Johnson and the Government.

“If it wasn't for the savage cuts being imposed on transport services in London by the Tory-led Government, we could cut fares, retain every staff post and improve passenger services.”

Mr Johnson has come in for criticism this week after seeming to suggest that poor people only have their own IQs to blame for their situation.

Today the mayor defended his comments, made in a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher, when he said that 16 per cent of “our species” had an IQ of less than 85 and just 2 per cent over 130 before adding “the harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top”.

Speaking on his regular LBC phone-in show Ask Boris, he said: “What I was saying actually is there is too much inequality and my speech was actually a warning… against letting this thing go unchecked.

“What hacks me off is that people with ability have found it very difficult to progress in the last 20 years and we have got to do something about that.”

Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron distanced himself from the original comments, saying: “I let Boris speak for himself. I think is very important that we make sure we do everything so that we maximise people's opportunities to make the most of their talents.”