Keeping the Wheels On

why fair funding for London’s transport system matters for those living on low incomes

Blog by Katherine Hill. 4in10’s Strategic Project Manager.

It has been widely reported that Transport for London is facing a funding crisis which will come to a head this week when its current emergency funding deal expires. The causes of this crisis are complex and contested. But what is clear is that unless agreement can be reached quickly, Londoners will soon feel the impact of cuts to the capital’s transport services – and none more so than Londoners living on low incomes.

Child poverty in London is in large measure driven by the sky-high cost of living in the city. In addition to well documented high housing and childcare costs, Londoners also spend the highest amount in the UK on transport (an average of £137 a month).[1] If fares have to be increased to plug holes in Transport for London’s budget, then this will be yet another additional cost that many families struggle to meet.

As our ‘Flying Against Gravity’ report published during this year’s London Challenge Poverty Week shows, access to affordable transport is essential to ensuring that families can get to work, take children to school and visit hospitals.[2] People told us they were concerned about affordable transport because it is an enabler, without it they miss out on things such as jobs, social interaction, and education. One young man explained how not being able to afford to use the transport network leads to a sense of exclusion:

 “London is meant to be someone’s home, yet you have all of these boundaries and factors that just stop working class people from accessing certain spaces.” Joshua, aged 18-20, Enfield.

Without money or access to transport, people are denied their right to educational opportunities that otherwise might help them break out of the poverty cycle:

“I was…having to travel a bus and a train to get to college. So, if I’m honest, I probably went in a couple of days a week. So as a result, I didn’t do very well in my A-levels because I was broke. I rarely went in because the money just didn’t really stretch.” Rhiya, aged 25-30, Bromley.

In addition to these direct effects on those who are financially struggling, if public transport services are reduced it will also have repercussions for efforts to cut the number of cars on our roads. As night follows day this will mean that the effects of traffic congestion such as air pollution and road danger increase, and we know that these disproportionately affect some groups including those on low incomes.[3]

So, it is critically important that the Government and Transport for London come together this week to reach a funding agreement that will keep our trains, buses, tubes and trams running at affordable cost. Failure to do so will impact on all Londoners, but without doubt, those living in poverty would feel the effect of cuts to services the most. Without affordable public transport, streets will be dirtier and more dangerous for children, schools and jobs will be less accessible to young people, and poorer families will be constrained to small areas of the city. This would be a huge step backwards when what they deserve is a sustainable, inclusive city.

Take action today and support London TravelWatch’s campaign to #keeplondonmoving by taking their quick, easy action here:

[1] Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone, (2019) Centre for London

[2] Flying Against Gravity, (2021) ClearView Research

[3] Fair access: Towards a transport system for everyone, (2019) Centre for London