Free public transport for under 18s saved in new funding deal

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

Free travel for under 18's has been saved as and is a result of a long campaign by young people across London including Hillingdon Members of the Youth Parliament Isra Sulevani and Maryam Malik.

The Zip card, which provides free travel on public transport in London for under 18's, had been under threat of being axed as part of a deal to keep TfL operating.

Given 72% of its income is from fares, COVID 19 has decimated TfL's income stream as more people have worked from home and avoided public transport.

To help fill the income gap, the Government have been providing financial support agreed on a six-month rolling basis. However, unlike the support the it has provided to private rail operators, such support has come with conditions attached.

In May, the Government agreed a £1.6 billion, six-month funding deal with TfL contingent on them temporarily curtailing free travel for Londoners under 18, committing to increase fares by RPI +1% during 2021, and bringing forward its plans to increase the hours and cost of the Congestion Charge.

With the original funding arrangement set to come to an end, a new deal was needed. As part of this, the Government had been pushing TfL to:

  • Introduce a £15 daily Congestion Charge to the North and South circular roads

  • Increase fares by more than the previously agreed RPI+1%

  • Scrap free travel for under-18s and over-60s.

On Sunday November 1st, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, announced that he had reached a deal with the Government to keep tube, bus and other Transport for London (TfL) services in the capital running until March 2021. Whilst described by Kahn as "not ideal", it protects free travel for under-18s and over-60s in London. The deal also ensures fares will not be raised by more than the previously agreed RPI+ 1% and the Congestion Charge Zone will not be extended.

The deal is a big win for the #DontZapTheZip campaign, lead by London's youth, who have been campaigning to protect free travel for Under 18's in the Capital.

Hillingdon's members of the Youth Parliament, Isra Sulevani and Maryam Malik, have been actively involved in the campaign. Back in August they wrote an opinion piece for this publication entitled 'Together, we can save free bus Travel for London’s Youth'. Here they detailed the negative effects that scrapping the Zip card would have.

Commenting on Sunday's announcement, Isra said:

Free transport is a way for young people in Hillingdon to access opportunities. It really is a gateway into the real world. I think after nearly having something so great stripped away from us, we’ve been able to appreciate its true value. We’re just thankful that the Government came to their senses and realised that taking away free travel would hit the most disadvantaged of us hardest. All my friends and fellow MYPs are elated that the #DontZapTheZip campaign succeeded!

Maryam added:

"With the success that has come from #DontZaptheZip , the youth within Hillingdon can carry on travelling fare free to places in London for work experience, volunteering and other activities".

"At a time when many families are experiencing financial stress, this move will also benefit Parents and Carers of young people in the borough who will now not have to pay for their children's transport fares, as the Government had proposed"

The package agreed will keep TfL running for another six months. A new package will be agreed in March 2021, two months before the London Assembly elections.