Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone


London’s transport system does not offer equitable access to all Londoners, nor does provision and use have an equitable impact on all groups. Many campaigns currently underway have made recommendations that will help address equity issues in transport – and which we endorse. These include:

  • Increasing access to cycling through improvements to cycling infrastructure and campaigns to increase access and usage among all communities.
  • Supporting retired and disabled people with the cost of purchasing electric or adapted bikes as an alternative to the Cycle to Work scheme, and providing cargo bike hire schemes to support people with limited storage space.
  • Improving air quality by supporting the move to cleaner vehicles through the Ultra Low Emission Zone and vehicle scrappage for low-income and disabled Londoners.
  • Improving safety on the roads through lowering speed limits, as well as increased British Transport Police presence and awareness campaigns to help reduce crime and fear of crime on public transport.
  • Improving affordability through linking Travelcards, pay-as-you-go caps and rail fares to CPI rather than RPI.
  • Widening access to public transport through consistent information, services and announcements.
  • Improving step free across the TfL and rail network to make them accessible to all.

Below we make further recommendations on how to build a transport system that offers fair access while supporting the city’s prosperity, sustainability and social life.

Re-evaluating how investment decisions are made

To help promote positive impacts and reduce inequality for specific groups, the six factors of equity in transport identified in our framework should be at the centre of transport planning and investment decisions. Central to standard business case appraisals is calculating a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) that estimates the financial costs of the project and the monetised value of economic benefits such as journey time savings, job creation, productivity benefits, and access to a wider range of educational and employment opportunities. Appraisals also include an assessment of the scheme’s impact on the environment (in terms of noise, air quality, biodiversity, townscape and greenhouse gas emissions) and on groups with protected characteristics (e.g. age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity status).

Although environmental, equality and social impact assessments can be used to identify potential positive impacts – especially for schemes where this is the main objective – their main purpose is to ensure that any negative impacts are identified and mitigated. In practice, they are not central to the appraisal process, and are not generally a key factor in deciding shortlisted options and whether a project should go ahead or not.

Previous reports have recognised the inadequacy of the existing frameworks in capturing the wider benefits of infrastructure investment. 81 Instead, equity-related and social factors should be proactively considered as a strategic aim in line with the aspirations of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. 82 As part of their decision-making processes, the Mayor, TfL, boroughs, planners and developers should:

  • Define equity more broadly: Rather than only focusing on mitigating negative impacts, decision makers should consider strategic objectives like promoting inclusion and reducing poverty, as well as addressing barriers for disabled people, ethnic minorities, seniors, young people and women. Targeting areas of poor existing transport connections or low air quality would also be in line with wider equity considerations.
  • Prioritise social benefits: Socio-demographic aims – such as supporting carers, improving access to opportunities for unemployed people, or improvingconnectivity in areas of high deprivation –should be considered from the early stages of a project alongside economic benefits.
  • Prioritise inclusive design: Designing for the different needs of children, older citizens or disabled persons from the outset will produce outcomes that are better for everyone. For example, step-free access also benefits people with suitcases or pushchairs, as well as people who simply may not be feeling well that day. Similarly, clearer signage and wayfinding information helps everyone.
  • Prioritise affordable transport: This report has demonstrated that prioritising affordable transport options is central to increasing opportunities for Londoners on low incomes. However, the current measure of connectivity (PTAL) does not take account of how affordable the available options are. Taking into account only services within certain
    price levels – or including access to bus services only – could paint a different picture of London’s connectivity levels, helping policymakers identify where connections are needed the most.
  • Prioritise active transport: Quality cycling infrastructure is a main enabler of cycling uptake. When designing new cycle routes, TfL and the boroughs should prioritise roads in areas with high cycling potential, but low take-up and poor existing provision. Similarly, an attractive public realm as well as safe pavements and pedestrian crossings are important for encouraging walking.
  • Prioritise affordable housing: Improved transport connectivity can help increase housing provision across London, as higher PTAL levels allow building at higher density. However, for major schemes the analysis should consider not only the quantity of housing delivered, but also the type and affordability of this housing – in order to prevent transport investment resulting in displacement of poorer people.
  • Consult better and early: Improved participation and engagement of local communities at the planning and consultation stages is crucial to understanding the needs of diverse local communities and what would best help local areas.
  • Monitor equity impacts: The evidence base for the Mayor’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy includes data on travel behaviour, affordability, accessibility and safety for specific groups, 83 but this is not published regularly or in full. Including such evidence in the annual Travel in London reports, as well as other indicators relevant to the Transport and Equity Framework, would enable the regular monitoring of progress.

Recommendation 1: When preparing business cases, the Mayor, Transport for London, 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.

Improving affordability

In addition to putting equity at the core of investment decisions, it is also important to look into removing existing barriers to walking, cycling and accessing public transport. As this report showed, affordability is one of the biggest barriers. The current Mayor has attempted to address this through a fares freeze and the Hopper fare.

The Hopper was introduced in September 2016 and allows an unlimited number of bus and tram changes within an hour for a single bus fare. Recent figures show that 368 million Hopper journeys have been made since its launch, with more than 450,000 “hops” now being made each day. 84 Although there is no data on the type of passengers that have benefited, the Hopper fare is designed to help people on low incomes who rely on the buses more (and may previously have been disadvantaged by having to use more than one bus to reach their destination).

The fares freeze was one of Sadiq Khan’s key pledges in the 2016 election. However, as previously discussed, this only applies to single fares: Travelcard and Oyster caps continue to be set nationally. These prices have increased in line with RPI – the same as rail fares. 85 For example, since the freeze was implemented, the cost of a weekly Travelcard for zones 1-4 has risen by nearly 10 per cent. This disadvantages regular travellers and commuters, while benefiting less regular travellers and visitors.

Without a boost to ridership, fare freezes or reductions are costly. With the loss of government grant towards operations, TfL’s budget was already under strain. A simple calculation based on the number of journeys made shows the Hopper fare has cost £552 million in the three years since its introduction, assuming the same trips would have been made without the Hopper (although it is argued that it may have increased ridership). The Mayor’s current fares freeze is also estimated to cost around £640 million over the four-year term. 86

Yet there are a number of revenue-neutral ways to support disadvantaged groups. We argue that the Mayor should review concessions, along with fares, caps and zone structures, and the scope and application of any future fares freeze.


TfL argues that an extensive range of concessions helps mitigate the cost of public transport for certain groups. However, concessions are costly (around £320 million in total) 87 and are currently subsidised by public transport fare payers, local authorities, and other TfL income such as retained business rates.

We argue that any concessions and discounts, along with other policies, should be justified on equity grounds. Most concessions are targeted at people with low income who may otherwise be unable to pay for their own travel (such as children, students, benefit claimants and pensioners), while for others it helps bridge the gap to employment (e.g. apprentices and job-seekers). Yet most are not means-tested, which means that some recipients may be receiving a benefit at the taxpayer’s expense that they could otherwise easily afford.

So how can concessions be made fairer? The different concessions available should be reviewed on the extent to which they enhance fairness and other social benefits, while also considering whether other groups may benefit from targeted discounts or restructured fares to support struggling Londoners.

For example, the Freedom Pass is part of a national policy, funded by London boroughs (with a partial grant from central government and some TfL contribution) and administered by London Councils on their behalf. Londoners used to be eligible for a Freedom Pass upon turning 60. However, from April 2010 eligibility was aligned with the state pension age for women, so has been gradually moving from those over 60 (on 6 April 2010) to those over 65 (on 5 April 2020). 88

Should the Freedom Pass be means-tested? There are many rich pensioners who could easily afford to pay for travel. But means testing is expensive and would put London pensioners in a different situation from their counterparts outside the capital. The Freedom Pass can also enable pensioners to be less car-reliant (potentially reducing road accident rates) and more physically and socially active, maintaining health and wellbeing for longer. On balance, the downsides of introducing means testing for the Freedom Pass outweigh the benefits, though wealthier pensioners can choose to pay their own way.

The 60+ London Oyster photocard was introduced in 2012 by then-Mayor Boris Johnson, making good his manifesto pledge to bridge the gap with the Freedom Pass for over-60s again. It is funded entirely by TfL – currently at nearly £70 million – and the cost will continue rising as the pension age eligibility for the Freedom Pass increases. It is projected to increase to around £130 million by 2023-24. 89

Like the Freedom Pass, the 60+ Oyster card could encourage drivers to switch to public transport. Unlike the Freedom Pass, however, the people that receive them are not pensioners: the vast majority of people aged 60-65 are still at work, and also tend to be wealthier than younger age groups. 87 So there is certainly justification for the 60+ Oyster card to be reviewed. It could be phased out by closing it to new applicants – or gradually increasing the age of eligibility one year at time while protecting those who are already receive it. An alternative is for the scheme to remain open but with increased application and renewal charges, bringing in at least some additional revenue to TfL.

In addition to formal concessions, the rewards package for TfL employees could also be reviewed. This typically includes free travel on the TfL network, not only for the employee but also for a nominated partner or anyone else living at the same address. 91 Although many current vacancies advertised at TfL only list a free pass for the employee among the benefits, others still offer the “plus one” perk. 92 More than 52,000 nominee passes were issued in 2018 and, while there is no direct cost to TfL (as no additional services need to be run), there would be an estimated £42 million in extra revenue if these journeys were paid. 93 As it seems that phasing out this perk for new employees has already begun, TfL should continue with this process.

Recommendation 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, as well as the additional nominee pass for new TfL employees.

Zone and fare structure

The public transport fare structure in London is based on travel zones (from 1 to 9) that allow those travelling shorter distances to pay less than those making longer trips. Single fares currently range from £2.40 within zone 1, to £7 from zone 9 to zone 1 at peak times; and for weekly Travelcards/caps prices range from £35.10 (zones 1-2) to £91.50 (zones 1-9). 94 However, as Chapter 1 showed, many Londoners who may have moved further away from central London for lower house prices find themselves paying much higher travel fares in return – as well as sacrificing time to a longer commute. There are a number of ways in which the zone structure could be reviewed to increase fairness and minimise the burden on travellers from Outer London.

1. Reduce the difference in fares between Travelcard zones

One option is to review the prices for each zone and reduce the price differences between the individual zones. For example, the prices for zones 4, 5 and 6 could be progressively lowered. Another option is to reduce the number of zones to even out fare differences (e.g. by merging zones 3 and 4, and zones 5 and 6). 95 However, to keep such measures revenue-neutral, the prices for other zones would need to be increased by a similar magnitude – or revenue would need to be found from elsewhere.

In a recent report, Centre for London recommended that the Mayor should replace the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (as well as any local road tolls) with a city-wide distancebased system of road user charging – and that the proceeds should be invested in road maintenance, public transport provision and environmental and public realm measures supporting walking and cycling. 96
The way that London’s roads are currently funded is inherently unfair: direct income from motorists (from the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone) is insufficient to cover road maintenance and investment on the TfL road network, so it must be supported by Underground fares revenue and other income. It can be argued that using an enhanced road user charge to support Underground fare payers would correct that injustice.

2. Review zone boundaries and re-zone stations

In the past, zones have been added or boundaries moved to reflect the shifting economic geographies of the city. For example, with the extension of Contactless and Oyster payments to suburban rail services, Dartford station and Swanley stations moved into zone 8 in September 2015. And in January 2016, Stratford, Stratford High Street, Stratford International, West Ham, Canning Town, Star Lane and Abbey Road were all moved from zone 3 to the zone 2/3 boundary. This change meant that journeys from these stations towards central London would now be charged from zone 2, while those heading east would be charged from zone 3 – thus saving passengers money. 97

A recent analysis reviewed the fare zones based on distance from central London (as defined by zone 1). It established that some stations in more central zones are actually further away from the nearest zone 1 station than others in less central zones. The author found that, if boundaries were redrawn purely on the basis of distance, many stations (including all three Croydon stations, Balham, South Tottenham and Tottenham Hale) would move to a more central zone – while some like Kingston and Surbiton would move more than one zone (from zone 6 to zone 4). Several would also move from outside zones to zone 6, such as Dartford, Swanley, Watford and Potters Bar. 98 While distance is far from the only factor to be considered, an argument can certainly be made on a case-by-case basis, especially for stations that are in poorer areas (such as those identified as low-affordability areas in Figure 12).

In general, the government considers station rezoning as an issue for TfL. The current Mayor has resisted such suggestions due to revenue impacts and the need to agree such changes with the rail operators and the Department for Transport. 99 The main barrier to rezoning is revenue loss to TfL and to train operators, who would expect compensation – though rezoning may also generate additional journeys due to more people moving in and travelling to and from the area for work and leisure. Transferring the operation of commuter rail services to TfL – as Centre for London and the Mayor have repeatedly called for – would enable TfL to make such decisions, as well as improve the frequency and reliability of the services (similar to the transformation of TfL Rail north of the river). 100

Recommendation 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 in low-affordability areas. In doing so, they should also consider how fares freezes help different groups, and whether there are better ways of targeting support.

Improving the travel experience

Technology has changed the way people travel in recent years, with smartphone connectivity and a proliferation of travel-related apps enabling people to access new mobility services and journey planning tools.

TfL currently has an online Journey Planner tool, which enables travellers to plan a journey across the full range of public transport options (bus, tram, Tube, DLR, National Rail, Overground, TfL Rail, River Bus, Emirates Air Line, coach) as well as walking and cycling. Users can customise journey options – such as preferred modes of transport, step-free access or walking ability – and save these preferences for future use. 101 There is a separate app for the TfL-operated docked Santander hire bikes.

However, TfL’s tool does not itself allow real-time journey navigation. Instead, TfL’s approach is to provide open access to its data for private providers – leading to the emergence of tools such as Citymapper, which helps users navigate their journey with step-by-step instructions, real-time departure boards and disruption
alerts. In addition, privately operated platforms like Citymapper and Uber integrate private services, such as ride hailing, bike hire and car clubs. Such platforms are known as “Mobility as a Service (MaaS)” providers, as they facilitate access to a range of mobility services beyond public transport.

Centre for London’s recent Green Light report suggested that TfL should create its own MaaS-style multi-modal journey planner app (dubbed “City Move”). 102 There are a number of benefits to a TfL operated planner as opposed to privately operated ones:

  • It could integrate a wide range of service providers, so travellers could mix and match public transport and other mobility services using a single platform.
  • It would enable travellers to compare, plan, navigate and pay for journeys across all modes.
  • It would compare the cost, emissions and pollution impact of different travel options to enable people to make informed choices.
  • It would enable TfL to integrate a smart system of road user charging. This would redress the pricing balance in favour of public transport, and raise additional funding for investment in public transport connectivity/road redesign that wouldbenefit all road users.

In addition, the platform would be based on an individual account that would allow for personalised features, including:

  • Personalised journey planning, such as tailored stepfree access or mode preferences.
  • Enhanced accessibility features such as audio directions for blind and visually impaired people, the selection of less busy routes for people with autism, etc.
  • Targeted discounts and exemptions.

TfL already offers bus and Tube concessions for people on certain benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance. However, a personal subscription platform would allow for such discounts to be extended to other modes of transport. For example, to promote cycling among lowincome groups, TfL and the Mayor could offer subsidised bike shares to people on income-related benefits. Similar schemes are in operation in the US and have been piloted in Scotland and Wales (see case study below).

The Mayor of London recently announced a vehicle scrappage scheme for people claiming certain income-related or disability benefits whose vehicles do not comply with the Ultra Low Emission Zone standards. As well as receiving £2,000 towards the cost of a new vehicle, eligible applicants will also be entitled to a year’s free membership of the Santander bike hire scheme, with all rides up to 30 minutes included. 103

To further promote a switch away from motor vehicles towards public transport, walking and cycling, TfL and the Mayor should launch a system of mobility credits – a form of currency that can be spent on public transport or any other travel option available within the City Move platform. Mobility credits could be used in many ways:

  • They could be given to people who are scrapping a vehicle or giving up a parking permit – to spend on public transport or shared mobility services instead of purchasing a new vehicle.
  • They could be given as an incentive for signing up to the City Move scheme.
  • A subsidised bike share scheme could operate through mobility credits (see case study below).
  • They could be given to disabled people who wish to take up cycling, as a contribution towards adapted cycles.
  • They could replace the Taxicard scheme, allowing disabled people to spend them on any service operator they wish.
  • They could be given to specific groups (such as NHS shift workers) who work at less accessible sites or at times when public transport is not available, to use for private cabs.

Case study: Subsidised bike share

To increase cycling take-up among low-income groups, several US cities have established subsidised bike share schemes that offer heavily discounted membership. For example, Philadelphia’s Indego30 Access offers Indego bike hire membership for $5/month rather than $17/month, and allows cash top-up at certain stores using the electronic cards used to transfer social benefit  payments (to verify eligibility). As a result, non-white populations in the US are one of the fastest-growing cycling groups and the most likely to cycle for transportation as well as for recreation, while low-income groups are also more likely to commute by bike. 104

The subsidised bike hire model has now been trialled in the UK. The Bikes For All project in Glasgow offers subsidised bike hire membership to people on very low or no income who would struggle to afford a bicycle and related costs. Eligible people can sign up for annual membership with nextbike for only £3 rather than the usual cost of £60, with inclusive rides of 60 minutes rather than 30 minutes. The scheme allows payment by cash, so does not require a bank card or a smartphone to access the bikes – and it also offers individual confidence-boosting cycle training.

Typical users are unemployed and homeless people, those in temporary accommodation, refugees, and asylum seekers. The majority of users had not considered cycling before signing up. Bikes For All was initiated and led by CoMoUK in partnership with Bike For Good and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, backed by Glasgow Council and funded by the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund from charity Paths for All.

In May 2019, nextbike also partnered with the Cardiff and Vale Health Board in Wales for a pilot that allowed GPs at two practices to prescribe six months of nextbike membership for people who need to do more exercise or lose weight. Through prescriptions, patients are given a unique access code that will entitle them to unlimited free 30-minute nextbike hire sessions for six months. If the pilot proves successful, it will be made more widely available across Cardiff.

We recognise that there are issues with digital inclusion. Smartphone ownership and Internet usage rates have been rapidly increasing, yet an estimated 12 per cent of adults across the UK – and 20 per cent of people aged 55-75 – still do not have a smartphone. 105 Although usage rates will increase further with time, TfL should continue investing in traditional forms of communication, journey information and ticketing, alongside the development of a digital journey planner platform. “Fixing the basics first” would include steps such as building in step-free access and healthy street features when designing new stations and public spaces, as well as providing journey information at stations and bus stops in a variety of formats.

Recommendation 4: The Mayor and TfL should create a multimodal journey planning platform alongside a system of mobility credits. These would allow for tailored accessibility features, targeted discounts like subsidised bike share, and more flexible services for disabled people.


Transport systems enable people to move around a city, but they should also enable social and economic mobility so that people can participate fully in urban life. Yet some people continue to be shut out.

Many people living further away from the city centre do not have access to dense public transport connections, which limits their movements. Others may have access to transport but are still unable to afford it. Specific mobility requirements may prevent people from being able to walk, cycle, or use public transport. Young, older people, disabled, ethnic minority, female and lowincome Londoners face specific barriers to access and can be more affected by negative impacts of transport provision such as air pollution, crime and road danger.

The Mayor and Transport for London may have limited power over Londoners’ incomes or life circumstances, but there is much they can do to make transport truly inclusive. Ensuring that equity is a central consideration in all transport planning and investment decisions would create fairer access to the transport system for everyone.

  • 81 Royal Town Planning Institute (2014). Transport Infrastructure Investment: Capturing the Wider Benefits of Investment in Transport Infrastructure.
  • 82 Mayor of London (2018). Inclusive London: The Mayor’s equality, diversity and inclusion strategy. London: Greater London Authority.
  • 83 Greater London Authority (2019). Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Evidence Base for London. Retrieved from: https://–diversity-andinclusion- evidence-base
  • 84 Transport for London (2019). New figures show popularity of the Mayor’s Hopper fare since launch. [Press Release.]
  • 85 Commuter season ticket prices have also increased substantially: for example, between 2017 and 2020, season tickets prices increased by nearly £500 from Milton Keynes, over £440 from Brighton, and £250 from Slough. See Better Transport (2019). Season Ticket costs 2020. Retrieved from: season-ticket-costs-2020-London.pdf
  • 86 London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee (2018). TfL Finances: The End of the Line?
  • 87 Ibid.
  • 88 Transport for All (N.D.). Changes to Older Person’s Freedom Pass eligibility. [Webpage.] Retrieved from: https://www. pass-eligibility
  • 89 Corlett, A. (2016, 11 May). Here’s why London’s new mayor should scrap the £100m free travel bung for older workers. CityMetric. Retrieved from: transport/here-s-why-london-s-new-mayor-should-scrap- 100m-free-travel-bung-older-workers-2075
  • 90 Ibid.
  • 91 Transport for London (N.D.) Rewarding you. [Webpage.] Retrieved from: rewarding-you
  • 92 Transport for London (N.D.). Careers/Search and Apply. [Webpage.] Accessed on 20 October 2019 from: https://tfl.
  • 93 Murray, D. (2019, 23 August). TfL staff perk that lets housemate travel free ‘cost record £42m in lost revenue last year’. The Evening Standard.
  • 94 Transport for London (2019). Fares from 2 January 2019. Retrieved from:
  • 95 Crerar, P. (2016, 5 January). Green Party’s radical plan to scrap London travel zones and replace with flat fare. The Evening Standard
  • 96 Barrett, S. (2019). Green Light: Next generation of road user charging for a healthier, more liveable London. London: Centre for London.
  • 97 Alwakeel, R. (2016, 4 January). TfL redraws Tube map as Zone 2 boundary change comes into effect. The Evening Standard.
  • 98 Jefferson, E. (2019, 14 October). What would a fairer version of the TfL fare zone look like? CityMetric.
  • 99 Mayor of London (2018, 11 October). Letter from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM.
  • 100 Roberts, J., Sims, S., & Wilson, B. (2016). Turning South London Orange: Reforming Suburban Rail to Support London’s Next Phase of Growth. London: Centre for London.
  • 101 Transport for London (N.D.). Plan a journey. Retrieved from:
  • 102 Barrett, S. (2019).
  • 103 Transport for London (N.D.). ULEZ Car and motorcycle scrappage scheme. Retrieved from: driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/car-and-motorcyclescrappage- scheme?cid=car-motorcycle-scrappage
  • 104 Anderson, M. (2019, 9 March). Assumption Busters: 12 facts about race, ethnicity, income & bicycling. People for Bikes blogs. Retrieved from: assumption-busters-surprising-facts-about-ethnicity-raceincome- bicycles/
  • 105 Office for National Statistics (2019). Internet users, UK: 2019. Deloitte (2019). Plateauing at the peak: The state of the smartphone, 2019.