In a move signalling an election campaign must be under way, Sadiq Khan has announced a freeze to most Tube and bus fares. The Mayor of London said that pay-as-you-go fares, which represent roughly 80 per cent of Tube journeys and nearly 75 per cent of bus journeys, will remain unchanged until March 2025. Fares had been expected to rise in line with those for national rail, set at 4.9 per cent.
How can apparently cash-strapped Transport for London afford this? The fares freeze is being funded with £123 million from City Hall’s budget after the Mayor was the beneficiary of a more than £500 million windfall, driven by higher-than-expected business rates receipts and reserves.
Opponents may call it a cynical pre-election giveaway, but commuters hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis won’t be quibbling. As ever, a balance must be struck between giving TfL the funds it needs, while ensuring ordinary people are not priced out of getting around their own city.
Stop the Ulez vandals
Like any issue of public policy, reasonable people can disagree. The Evening Standard has consistently supported the extension to the ultra low emission zone on the basis that all Londoners have the right to breathe clean air, regardless of their postcode. But this newspaper accepts there are losers from the policy.
What all sides must condemn without qualification is thuggery. Anti-Ulez activists have taken to tearing down enforcement cameras across the city. In one wave, 10 cameras were cut down within a five-mile radius around Orpington, Bromley and Lewisham. This has led to furious residents saying that one such incident contributed to a car accident in which a six-year-old girl was injured.
Police are investigating the circumstances behind that incident, but something feels inevitable. The Met revealed in November that there had been nearly 1,000 recorded crimes connected to Ulez cameras being stolen or vandalised in the previous seven months. Some politicians normally keen to appear tough on crime have been quiet on the matter. We can debate the pros and cons of Ulez — we must not tolerate criminality.
Have audiences forgotten how to behave? The Standard’s culture editor Nancy Durrant certainly fears so. This is not about policing authentic reactions to high drama on stage. Rather, it is the scourge of ringing phones, the consumption of crunchy snacks and even fist fights at front of house.
Of course, none of our readers would be guilty of such high crimes and misdemeanours. But it ought to be stamped out before the theatre loses one of its unique selling points: it is not like real life.