Kingston Lib Dems urge Government not to stop free travel for under-18s

Kingston Lib Dems have written to the Government, along with colleagues in the London Boroughs of Richmond and Sutton, in response to the recent announcement that free travel for under-18s will be scrapped as part of the bailout deal between Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT).

The joint-letter asks the Government to reconsider this part of the deal, as by scrapping free travel for under-18s across London, our young people will see a disastrous impact on their independence, as well as their opportunities for education and employment, and their cultural and sporting opportunities.

As we rebuild our city after the coronavirus lockdown, our resources should be focused on our young people, whose prospects have taken a huge hit.

Kingston Lib Dems have also launched a petition calling for the Government to reconsider stopping free public transport for under-18s. You can add your name to the petition here.

You can read the full joint-letter below:

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Department for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR

Dear Grant,

We are writing to you in grave concern for the recently-announced plans to scrap free travel for under-18s in London.  We understand that this is a condition of the emergency funding from the Department for Transport to Transport for London.

Scrapping free travel for under-18s would have a disastrous impact on the education, employment and cultural and sporting opportunities of our young people.  As we rebuild our city after the Coronavirus shutdown, it is imperative that we focus our resources on our young people, whose prospects have been so badly damaged by the economic shutdown.

The ending of free travel for under-18s would have the biggest impact for their education prospects.  Currently, young people can travel for free to school on buses, opening up their options for secondary education.  Without free travel, many young people from lower-income backgrounds would not be able to afford the bus fare to school, resulting in a greater level of absences, lateness and under-performance.  School children walking long distances to school will be at greater risk of becoming victims of crime or traffic accidents.  We can also expect to see an increase in children being driven to school if free bus travel is no longer available, reversing the improvements we have seen in school-related traffic.

Local authorities have a statutory responsibility to fund travel to school for young people if their school is greater than three miles away.  Free travel for under-18s in London effectively removed the obligation for local authorities to provide this funding.  The scrapping of free travel is due to be implemented in September, giving local authorities very little time to find the funding for school travel and put in place administration arrangements.  This is an unlooked-for burden at a time when local authority resources are already unprecedentedly overstretched.

Beyond their educational prospects, however, young people will miss out on the vast array of cultural and sporting activities that our great city has to offer if they are restricted from moving around.  Those from lower-income backgrounds will be the most badly impacted by this decision.

As Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament and borough leaders, we urge you to reconsider this short-sighted decision.  Our greatest priority at this time is to invest in our young people, whose futures have been made so uncertain by this  pandemic.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Olney
MP for Richmond Park and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Transport

Ed Davey
MP for Kingston and Surbiton and Acting Co-Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Munira Wilson
MP for Twickenham

Cllr Caroline Kerr
Leader of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

Cllr Ruth Dombey
Leader of the London Borough of Sutton

Cllr Gareth Roberts
Leader of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

Caroline Pidgeon AM
Liberal Democrat Member of the London Assembly

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