London TravelWatch probes reaction to Oyster Zip suspension

Young people across London have shared their concerns over the axing of free Oyster Zip card travel with London TravelWatch.

Their worries, which included fears about the financial cost, threats to independence and safety concerns are highlighted in a report published by the watchdog today.

One of the terms of the emergency financial settlement agreed by Transport for London and London mayor Sadiq Khan with the UK Government was that free Oyster Zip Card travel for under 18s would be suspended. The measure was justified on the basis that it would encourage children to walk and cycle more, as well as provide sufficient social distancing capacity during the pandemic period. However, there are concerns that the changes would adversely impact on young people’s ability to get around London for a number of reasons

Over the last few weeks, London TravelWatch has been in touch with youth councils across London to assess the impact of the plans to withdraw free travel on public transport for young people in the capital. Several accepted the watchdog’s offer of a meeting over Zoom to discuss their concerns.

Common themes emerged across London in the testimonies London TravelWatch received: young people value free travel and it would present real challenges to them and their families if they were forced to pay to get around, or find an alternative way of making the journeys that before lockdown many had considered to be routine.

Emma Gibson, director of the watchdog commented: “The testimonies from young people paint a powerful picture of the wide ranging impact on young Londoners who rely on free travel to get to school, visit relatives, explore the city and keep safe while they do so.

“They show that not everyone can cycle to school – some can’t even afford to buy a bike, and for others, their school is just too far away to walk or cycle. And if they can’t use public transport, many young people will become reliant on their parents and that might mean being taken to school by car, further increasing harmful emission levels and congestion on the roads.’

London TravelWatch has written to all London MPs to urge them to ask the prime minister to think again about withdrawing free travel for young people. The watchdog has also been following the progress of Joshua Brown-Smith’s petition which currently has over 180,000 signatures.

The report can be read here.

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