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‘Axe free travel for families of TfL staff'

PERKS: Tories claim scheme costs TfL £22 million a year

FREE TRAVEL for families of transport workers should be axed to save a reported £22 million a year, Conservatives on the London Assembly have said.

Transport for London (TfL) provides all 27,000 staff members with a pass covering zones 1-6 and employees can also nominate a member of their household for an additional pass, which entitles them to travel on its network at no cost.

It is reported that TfL issued more than 22,000 travel passes last year under the 'Staff Nominee' scheme.

Although many are issued to spouses, partners and family members, Conservatives on the Assembly claim some passes are also issued to “lodgers and flatmates” because staff don’t have to provide evidence of a relationship with their chosen beneficiary.

In a report titled Free Ride, the party’s London faction calculated that 3.6 million single journeys were taken on the Tube, DLR and tram by nominee pass holders in 2014 and nearly 4.8 million single bus journeys.

The call to end the benefit is a position shared by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall who have all emphasised that the money generated can be re-invested.

As part of an elaborate overhaul, Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservative Assembly group, says one of the key areas of investment would be to provide free transport to firefighters, a perk already enjoyed by Met Police officers.

Boff said: “At a time when the public sector is having to make money stretch further, there is no justification for individuals who do not provide an essential role in keeping London in operation receiving these types of benefits.

A TfL spokesperson has dismissed the claimed £22m in extra revenue as “nonsense” and insisted that the nominee pass “is a long-standing part of the terms and conditions of TfL staff”.

They added: “Were it to be withdrawn it would result in immediate claims for increased pay and almost certainly lead to widespread industrial action for a net financial loss.

“Any additional revenue if nominee passes were withdrawn would be no more than £5-7 million at most because average fares are far less than the assumed values used.”

The debate was first raised back in 2013 but was dismissed when Mayor of London Boris Johnson failed to throw his backing to the proposed overhaul.

Echoing the sentiments of TfL Johnson questioned the alleged financial savings.

“I think to take it away in an arbitrary fashion would unquestionably be perceived as something that people had not bargained for and I think you could expect a very adverse reaction to no real economic benefit to us,” he said.

There is no confirmation on whether he still holds the same position this time round.

Advocates for scrapping the perk have called for TfL to freeze the issuing of any new passes and allowing existing holders’ passes to expire at the end of the year.

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