Conservative mayoral hopeful Zac Goldsmith launched his transport manifesto on Wednesday in the biggest indication yet that he will raise tube and bus fares if he is elected on May 5.
Speaking in Ilford in north-east London, Goldsmith attacked rival Sadiq Khan’s “reckless” promise to freeze fares for four years, and said the Labour candidate’s proposal to keep the cost of using bus and tube services the same would leave a £1.9 billion gap in the capital’s investment plans.
Considering public transport prices only really go up and rarely down, then not supporting a price freeze indicates that he would let prices continue to rise.
Goldsmith, who according to an Opinium poll published earlier this month is trailing Khan to replace Boris Johnson as London’s new mayor, outlined his plans to “get London building” and said planned investment in London’s transport infrastructure would be jeopardised by a freeze to bus and underground ticket prices.
Speaking about projects such as Crossrail 2 and the expansion of London’s overground railway system, he said:
I am clear that these plans are only possible by protecting Transport for London’s (TfL) investment budget, by delivering a stronger economy for London, and by getting a good deal from government. I will not make reckless spending pledges that will undermine the central nervous system that London relies on.
He went onto to say that investment in London’s transport network will be the key to unlocking other major projects like 270,000 homes and over 250,00 new jobs.
According to The Guardian, Goldsmith’s plans include a pledge to keep the freedom pass which allows the over 60 to travel for free, however younger commuters will see fares rise.
Meanwhile, 15 miles away in south London, Sadiq Khan launched an offensive of his own, accusing Transport for London of a “culture of excess” and said the money saved from improving the service’s efficiency would cover the costs of freezing ticket prices.
Khan, the MP for Tooting, who served as transport minister during Gordon Brown’s government, claims his rival will hike tube and bus fares by 17% if elected as London mayor.
Khan says the cost of freezing fares would be around £450 million – a sum that falls short of Goldsmith’s £1.9 billion figure which was described as the best official prediction by TfL commissioner Mike Brown.
Speaking in Brixton, the Labour candidate was critical of TfL for paying over 450 members of staff more than £100,000 a year, and described the amount of money spent on consultants and agency works as “simply not acceptable.”
The two speeches marked another day of fierce campaigning in the run-up to the May election, with Goldsmith claiming Khan would be powerless to the unions and prevented from making “tough decisions.”
Londoners will elect a new Mayor and the 25 members of the London Assembly on May 5th.