TfL boss delays cut to free kids travel until next year

Children across London will be able to contour travelling on buses for free until next spring travel.

Plans to cuts free travel for children in  children will not be cut until next spring, the head of Transport for London (TfL) has revealed.

The zip card scheme was due to be suspended after the October half term, but network boss Andy Byford said it will be pushed back to 2021.

The government ordered Sadiq Khan to cut under 18s free travel during the coronavirus pandemic to help social distancing – making it a condition of the £1.6bn TfL bailout in May.

But the mayor refused to back the policy, claiming it was forced on him late in negotiations – and campaigners warned it would hit poorer families already struggling during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Mr Byford told the London Assembly on Thursday it “cannot now be done” in time for the half term break.

Cutting free kids’ travel is “still the government’s desire” and “remains on the table,” he said – but the TfL boss believes it is no longer necessary.

Bus tap ins with zip cards – the free travel pass children use – are down 30% on last year, the Assembly’s budget scrutiny committee heard.

And TfL believes removing free travel would cut demand from children by only 6% at most.

Overall, bus use is around 60% of pre-pandemic levels, with Tube use still just a third.

“It’s always a challenge in September because you get a sudden rush of school kids coming in but we have taken steps to provide special school buses,” Mr Byford said.

“If ultimately the goal [of cutting free travel] was providing extra capacity then I think that what we’ve already done has been spectacularly successful.”

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