Government U-turn on removing free travel for under 18s in Hammersmith and Fulham shows Sadiq Khan is ‘standing up for London’, says Labour West Central Assembly Member candidate 12,678 under 18s would have lost their free travel in Hammersmith and Fulham if the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had not stood up for London and forced the Government into a humiliating U-turn, says Rita Begum Labour Assembly Member candidate for West Central. The local Labour candidate hit out at Boris Johnson’s Government for trying to impose a series of cruel and unfair conditions on TfL users, saying the Tories wanted to punish Londoners for doing the right thing and following the rules in response to COVID-19. Rita Begum said if it wasn’t for Sadiq Khan opposing the Government - and refusing to accept the terms being dictated - free travel would have been scrapped for under 18s across the borough. Rita, also said it was ‘shameful’ for the Government to attempt to scrap free travel for under 18s when Londoners had played their part in defeating the virus by staying at home and not using TfL services unnecessarily. The proposed change would have hit the poorest young Londoners hardest and been a major blow to families already struggling due to the pandemic. The Mayor of London also slammed the Government's plans, describing them as a ’slap in the face’ for Londoners, who were being asked to pay for the crisis through cuts. As a result of the pandemic, TfL’s finances were hit hard as fares income fell by 70 per cent - as Londoners followed the Government's rules and stayed at home. Last month, the Mayor of London managed to reach an eleventh-hour agreement with the Government on a funding deal to keep Tube, bus and other TfL services in the capital running until March 2021. In doing so, he succeeded in killing off the very worst Government proposals, which were set out in writing by the Transport Secretary during the negotiations and included Government plans for a huge extension of the Congestion Charge Zone and the removal of free travel for older and younger Londoners. However, the Tory Government is still determined to punish Londoners. They have said that if London wants to keep concessions for older and younger Londoners in future years, City Hall will have to raise the revenue itself - which Sadiq has committed to doing. TfL has relied heavily on income from fares to cover the cost of running its services since the last Tory Government cut the transport authority’s £700m annual grant in its entirety, leaving London as the only major city in Western Europe not to receive direct Government funding to run day-to-day transport services.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “I am pleased that we have succeeded in killing off the very worst Government conditions, but it should never have come to this. Free travel is a lifeline for under 18s travelling to school or college, or to see friends and family. “Removing it during a global pandemic when struggling families need our support, not cuts, wasn’t something I was ever prepared to let happen. It was absolutely crucial that we fought and defeated this unfair proposal. “The final deal is far from ideal, but because we pushed back hard against the Tory Government’s original plans we were able to vastly improve the offer on the table. The reality is the only reason TfL needs Government support is because almost all our fares income has dried up since March, as Londoners have done the right thing and stayed at home during lockdown. “In the face of a hostile Tory Government that is determined to punish our city - and make the poorest in our communities bear the cost of the coronavirus crisis - I will continue standing up for London.” Rita Begum, Assembly Member candidate for West Central, said: “Scrapping free travel for under-18s was a shameful proposal from the Tories, and it was crucial that we had a Mayor who was standing up for London throughout the negotiations. “It is simply not right to make the poorest children pick up the cost of this pandemic. Households are already suffering because of the economic shock and the last thing struggling families need now is more Tory cuts that would lead to further financial difficulties for them. “The fact Sadiq has managed to save these concessions shows how important it is to have a Labour Mayor in City Hall.”