Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone


Urban transport has a huge impact on Londoners, unlocking opportunities for employment, education, leisure and social life. Unfortunately, however, the capital’s transport system does not offer the same benefits to everyone in our city.

This report examines how shortcomings in transport affordability, connectivity and accessibility hold back different groups in the capital – including young, older, disabled, ethnic minority and low-income Londoners. It also investigates how these groups are affected by air pollution, crime, road danger, and the inactivity that results from reliance on cars.

Londoners spend more of their income on transport than people outside the capital or in other world cities.

  • London residents spend a monthly average of £137 (or approximately 7 per cent of their take-home income) on transport, but younger people and skilled manual employees spend even more (one-tenth).
  • While single fares for the Tube and bus have been frozen since 2015, Travelcard and pay-as-you-go cap prices have increased by 10 per cent, affecting many regular travellers.

Transport costs can be a barrier to many people across the city, in both inner and outer London

  • There is no strong link between transport connectivity and deprivation: there are both rich and poor areas with good connectivity.
  • However, in areas of high deprivation, limited connectivity, high costs and low incomes can exacerbate poverty by reducing affordable access to employment, education and healthcare.

Disabled and older people and those with invisible conditions cannot access large parts of the public transport network.

  • While the Underground has limited step-free access, it also offers valuable staff assistance. Buses provide easier step-free access, but drivers are unable to assist passengers.
  • Disabled Londoners rely on private cars and taxis more, but Taxicard provision is inconsistent across boroughs and the Dial-a-Ride service can be unreliable.

Lack of provision for walking and cycling can lead to sedentary lifestyles and affect health and wellbeing.

  • Outer London boroughs have higher reliance on cars and lower levels of walking and cycling.
  • Walking and cycling can be accessible forms of exercise for older and disabled people. But the cost of e-assist or adapted bikes – and poor provision of cycle lanes and other infrastructure – can be prohibitive.

Some groups are unfairly affected by the negative impacts of transport provision.

  • Air pollution disproportionately affects poorer Londoners, even though they are the least likely to drive. It is also more damaging to older people, children and those with heart and respiratory conditions.
  • Motor vehicle drivers and passengers have higher exposure to air pollution than cyclists and pedestrians, while a third of Londoners see concern about air pollution as a barrier to using a private car or motorcycle.
  • Although road casualty numbers have been declining overall, pedestrians in the poorest areas and black people in particular are more likely to be injured.

Taken together, these findings indicate how different user groups can face multiple and overlapping barriers to accessing public transport, walking and cycling:

  • Older people are more likely to use buses, but are hampered by lack of direct routes and safety concerns.
  • Disabled people find that lack of assistance and inconsistent information prevent them from being more independent.
  • People on low incomes are held back from cycling more frequently by the associated costs and lack of storage space.
  • Women have different travel patterns to men, but most travel routes are not geared to their needs; and safety concerns are a barrier for women across transport modes.
  • Black and ethnic minority Londoners are more likely to cite cost and safety concerns as barriers to using public transport more, while cultural barriers can also hinder cycling take-up.
  • Young people are more likely to cite overcrowding and cost as barriers to using the Tube more.

To help address these challenges, our report recommends that equity should be a central consideration in all transport planning and investment decisions.

  1. When preparing business cases, the Mayor, Transport for London (TfL), boroughs, planners and developers should consider wider social benefits early on in the process alongside economic benefits. They should also prioritise inclusive design, affordable and active transport investment, and affordable housing development.
  2. The Mayor and TfL should review the fares freeze and concessionary fares, and should specifically consider gradually phasing out the 60+ London Oyster photocard and the additional nominee pass for new TfL employees.
  3. The Mayor and TfL should review the zone and fare structure to improve affordability – including reducing the difference in fares between zones, reducing the number of zones, or rezoning particular stations that are in low-affordability areas.
  4. The Mayor and TfL should create a multi-modal journey planning platform alongside a system of mobility credits. These would allow for tailored accessibility features, targeted discounts such as subsidised bike share, and more flexible services for disabled people.