Westminster mum fears loss of free bus travel for kids could put safety at risk

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

The loss of free bus travel for children could severely hit the pockets of families already struggling to make ends meet, parents have warned.

Cash-strapped Transport for London (TfL) is due to cut the free pass for children in September as part of the rescue deal as it faces an estimated £5bn loss due to the coronavirus crisis.

The government has agreed a bailout deal, and TfL also has to look at ways of raising income, including raising the congestion charge by £3.50 to £15, and extending its hours from 7am to 10pm daily.

One Westminster mother-of-three said the new bus charges could put a dent in her budget and could impact on children across the capital.

Lisa, who lives in a Maida Vale council flat, said:  “I’ve been losing sleep over worrying about the extra fares and safety issues for my children and other children in the same situation.”

She signed a Child Poverty Action Group petition calling for a rethink on the charges.

So far 195,000 people have signed the Don’t Zap the Zip petition on change.org

The campaign group said: “This will be a disaster for families with children who are already struggling.

“Not only will it increase costs for them, it could also mean that children and young people are more restricted to their local area, less able to travel to school, college, work and healthcare appointments, and more likely to miss out on the many opportunities that London has to offer them.”

It called on the government to scrap its plans to temporarily scrap the travel discount.

Lisa said: “It will impact everybody – if they want to go out on day trips or seeing their friends at the weekend, which could be hard for people to afford.”

The mother-of-three qualified as a prescribing optician and has been doing locum work for the past few weeks.

She said: “I am trying to work really hard for the future to give my boys a better life.”

But many families like her are facing an uncertain future as full-time jobs dry up because of the pandemic.

She said she was bringing home around £15,000 after tax and it means there is little to spare after all the bills are paid.

And she has to pay for after school club for her youngest son, aged 10, as she is unable to meet him straight from school because of her working hours.

She said she was also concerned about her children’s safety and the risks they could face from gangs if they have to walk through different postcodes, and they could be at risk of other crime.

“My youngest would have to go through back roads to get to the main road for a bus,” she said.

His journey to school would take an estimated hour-and-a-half by foot, or 30 minutes by bus.

And her middle child has a 20-minute walk to school.

“I want to give them independence but I want them to be safe,” she said.

Pictured top: Free bus travel for children is set to be scrapped from September as TfL looks to claw back some of the estimated £5bn it lost in fares during lockdown


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