By Madeleine Strom
In May 2020, it was announced that the Zip Oyster card would be scrapped, rightly causing uproar as soon as the news was announced. For those who are unaware of the Zip Oyster, it is a travel pass for under 18s living in London – allowing them access to free travel on buses and trams, as well as discounted train services at stations within London.
This is worrying for many reasons. Firstly, travel around London is not cheap. Different London towns are positioned within different zones, going from Zone 1 (right in the heart of London) outwards to Zone 8. To put things in perspective, a one way train ticket from London Victoria to Croydon (Zone 1 to Zone 5) is £2.90 for a child. With an Oyster card, this journey is £0.75. One bus ride is normally £1.50, whilst a Zip Oyster enables a passenger to travel for free. As you can see, this is a massive saving.
Now, think of all the children who live in London and use public transport to get to school. As someone who used their Oyster card to commute to school for free, it truly was a blessing. Not only was I able to journey to school for free (or cheaply via train if I ever missed the bus), travelling around London to see friends was also cheap or free.
It may seem small, but low income families will be hit the hardest. Parents who work full-time may not be able to drive their child to school, meaning that the child must rely on public transport. If this child attends everyday, they will have to spend £30 in one week (if we base calculations on single tickets and a commute between Zones 1-5).
School is expensive enough. Uniform, books, school trips all add up – and now even the commute is adding to the expenses. Parents may have to work longer hours, or children may have to find other ways of commuting.
This September, it seems that COVID-19 is not the only thing parents have to worry about.
Another crucial issue that must be addressed is the reason why public transport is so useful. London has alarmingly high levels of pollution. Public transport should be encouraged by our ministers, as a way of reducing C02 emissions and pollution within the capital. Fewer cars and greater use of public transport has always been seen as a solid step to combatting pollution and global warming. By scrapping the Zip Oyster, we are encouraging an unhealthy and toxic London.
Now, as if things could get any more daft, the Government has also increased the congestion charge from £11.50 to £15. The charge now applies everyday from 7am-10pm everyday (rather than just on the weekends). The congestion charge was originally set in place 17 years ago, as a way to manage traffic flow within London and to reduce air and noise pollution within the city.
So here, we have an issue. If we scrap the Zip Oysters, more cars will be on the roads. Not only will these be adding to the air and noise pollution, it will also be more expensive to be on the road due to the hike in congestion charge fees. Low income families will be caught between a rock and a hard place, having to pay either the Congestion charge or unaffordable public transport costs.
If you want to join the fight to stop the Zip Oyster card being scrapped, please sign this petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/331453
Image: Julian Walker via Flickr.