London bus fares are going to be put back in place again on some routes after being suspended during the lockdown.
Bus travel in the capital was made free from April 20, when all passengers were required to enter and exit buses from the middle doors only, meaning people were not able to access the card reader next to the driver’s cab. The change was initiated in order to help protect bus drivers who have more direct contact with passengers. Sadly, 29 London bus drivers have died from Covid-19 so far.
TfL has announced that fares will be reinstated on selected routes on Saturday May 23. These will initially be limited to 85 routes served by the new Routemaster buses, which already have card readers at the middle doors, and single-door buses. This will be the first phase in reinstating fares across the whole bus network. Touching in will follow on more routes in the coming weeks once further safety measures are in place to protect drivers.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the decision to reinstate bus fares in a written Commons statement, in which he outlined the terms of the government’s £1.6 billion TfL funding deal. As part of the terms, Shapps said one of the conditions required ‘TfL to collect fares on buses while ensuring driver safety, which it had stopped doing during the crisis’.
Other conditions include increasing TfL fares by the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 1 percent in January, restoring services to 100 percent of pre-Covid levels as soon as possible, partly suspending free travel for the over-60s, temporarily suspending all free travel for under-18s and increasing the congestion charge to £15 a day as well as extending its hours of operation. He said people with disabilities will still be able to use their concessions. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called the deal a ‘sticking plaster’, saying, ‘This is not the deal I wanted for our city.’
The news follows calls from trade union Unite, which represents more than 20,000 bus workers, that the government must ‘establish clear rules about maximum passenger capacity and make the wearing of face masks compulsory to keep buses and other forms of public transport safe’ as fares are reintroduced. TfL said it is working with its operators, suppliers and trade unions to make sure drivers have access to masks and reinforced perspex screens, and that a rigorous cleaning regime is put in place across the network.
TfL is still asking Londoners only to use buses and other forms of public transport if their journey is essential.
Here’s a list of the busiest tube stations to avoid on your travels.
Find out how you can help other Londoners right now.