London

Livingstone pledges to cut London travel fares by 5%

Labour's London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone has said he would use a budget surplus of £728m to cut transport fares by 5% if elected.

He said Transport for London (TfL) had an operational surplus which could be redirected to reduce travel costs.

The former mayor said he would introduce an emergency fares package, taking effect in the autumn of 2012 - just months after the elections in May.

But City Hall said Mr Livingstone's idea "simply does not stack up".

'Huge and damaging impact'

A statement from the mayor's office said: "Every penny of TfL's budget is accounted for to pay for the upgrade of the capital's transport system.

"It would be impossible to absorb the loss of revenue he suggests without a huge and damaging impact on TfL's investment programme."

It also said Boris Johnson has increased investment in the Tube network, having been left a "serious financial headache" after Mr Livingstone was voted out in 2008.

Mr Livingstone has also pledged no further fare rises in 2013 and said from January 2014, and in subsequent years, there would be no fare rises above the retail price index.

He claimed TfL had an operating surplus in the past financial year of £728m, which he would use to reduce fares.

Earlier this month, the mayor, Boris Johnson, announced fares on London's transport network would rise by an average of 7% from January 2012.

'Painful fare increase'

TfL said the above-inflation rise was necessary to maintain investment in the network.

Mr Livingstone said: "Fares must be cut - on transport grounds to make the system more attractive, but also on economic grounds to put ordinary Londoners first by putting money back in the pockets that will boost the London economy.

"I'm drawing a line in the sand - Boris Johnson will hit you with a painful fare increase this coming January, but if I am elected the fares will be cut.

"There could be no clearer choice."

Tony Travers, from the London School of Economics, said TfL's budget surplus was not intended for funding fare cuts.

He said: "TfL manages huge capital projects.

"Because of this it needs to carry large reserves at any point.

"They are intended for investment in hardware - not for use as a way of holding fares down."

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