The Stop the Silvertown Tunnel coalition of organisations and activists in London has put forward a bold proposal: to make all public transport in the city free of charge. The aim is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, cut deadly air pollution, and provide relief to Londoners struggling with the cost of living crisis.
Transport is currently London’s second largest source of emissions after the built environment. Years of policies favouring private car use have entrenched people’s dependency on carbon-intensive modes of travel. The coalition argues that making buses, trains, trams and other public transit free to use, while investing to expand and improve services, is the kind of dramatic policy shift needed to get more Londoners to switch to green ways of getting around.
Evidence shows that ridership surges when cities introduce free transit schemes. Cities like Tallinn in Estonia have successfully combined free public transport with measures to pedestrianise city centres and restrict parking. The result has been cleaner air, reduced traffic jams, and more equitable access to mobility.
There is also a social justice element to the proposal. Lower income Londoners are least likely to own a private vehicle, meaning they stand to benefit greatly if buses and subways become free. This aligns with goals to lessen inequality in one of the planet’s most expensive megacities.
The coalition points out that London has already made progress by offering free bus and tram rides to under 18s. Extending this to all age groups is seen as the logical next step. Groups in other parts of the UK campaigning for free national public transit are also supportive.
Of course the big question is how such a scheme would be paid for. The coalition suggests a mix of city and national level policies, from taxing commercial land values to increasing fuel duties currently frozen by the government. They estimate that reversing cuts to bus services could be covered by restoring fuel taxes to 2013 levels.
While costs and political hurdles are substantial, the coalition hopes their grassroots campaign can rally enough public pressure to convince London’s mayor and transport authorities that zero fare public transport is an idea whose time has come. The world will be watching closely to see if London can set an example for other global cities to follow.
Hold the date: Saturday 10 February 2024, for a meeting about a campaign for free public transport in London.
The Stop the Silvertown Tunnel coalition invites you to a meeting, to discuss joining with them in a campaign for free public transport in London, on Saturday 10 February 2024, at 10.30 am, at the Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, London SE1 7AA (2 mins walk from Waterloo station).
To indicate interest, please write to: email@example.com
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