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TfL consider London Underground 'premium fare' on Piccadilly Line to Heathrow

Finn Byrne

January 18, 2022.

Transport for London has faced a backlash against a proposed ‘premium fare’ on the Piccadilly line, which could see travellers charged an extra 60 per cent for journeys to Heathrow Airport, writes Finn Byrne, reporting for My London. The 60 per cent increase would be put in place from Zone 1 all the way out to Heathrow Airport, Zone 6, and would mean peak fares being implemented all day rather than just morning and evening rush hours. The proposed increase in price would be used to help increase the revenue of TfL services after they have been badly impacted throughout the pandemic.

The Government will review the proposals in January and provide feedback to TfL ahead of a new funding agreement deadline on February 4.

This new premium will see the price of an off-peak journey using contactless payment or Oyster card increase by 60 per cent. It is currently unclear if this new fare will apply at weekends and is subject to consultation, impact assessment and decision-making processes before implementation, though further detail of these processes are not yet available

However, precise fare increases for 2022 are yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be an increase of 5 per cent on the current charges, meaning the percentage increase for these journeys could in fact be higher. Existing TfL rail journeys from Heathrow to Zone 1 already incur a premium fare of £10.40 for an off-peak single using contactless or Oyster card.

Image - Kevan James

The impact of the proposed charge was met with anger by local campaign group Stop Heathrow Expansion and a Residents Association based close to the Airport. Geraldine Nicholson, of Stop Heathrow Expansion, said: “Air pollution around Heathrow was at a dangerous level prior to the pandemic, with monitors located around the airport recording illegal levels of harmful pollutants for local people to breathe, in an area that already has higher than average deaths from air pollution.

“We fear that any new premium charge introduced at our local Tube station may lead residents to use alternative ways to access Central London, potentially placing more cars on local roads to access stations not subject to these premium charges.”

Jane Taylor, chair of Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents Association, said: “Not all users of Heathrow’s Underground stations are directly associated with the airport. To many local residents in villages close to Heathrow, the Piccadilly Line is part of their everyday commuting route to their place of work outside current peak times or allows easy access to services and facilities which are not found in the villages around Heathrow.

“To make us pay 60 per cent extra to go into London is unacceptable at the best of times, let alone when we are already trying to budget for the recent dramatic rise in the costs of heating and food.”

Heathrow is set to consult in the new year on its sustainability plans – it is likely that this will include maximum use of public transport by airport traffic as well as local people. The airport has said that it hopes to improve air quality around the hub, but it follows reports of losses of £2 billion to Heathrow after the number of scheduled flights taken plummeted by around a half across the flight industry due to the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “TfL are in the early days of considering whether to amend the fare structure for Piccadilly line and TfL Rail services to and from Heathrow Airport so that a peak fare for journeys which start or go through Zone 1 would apply at all times on journeys into and through Zone 1.

"This would reflect that demand to Heathrow does not conform to the usual peak periods and would help ensure more consistency in fare prices between these TfL-operated services.

“No final decisions have been made and any change would require engagement with key stakeholders, including Heathrow Airport, as well as a Mayoral Decision before it was introduced. Staff travelling to and from the airport are likely to still benefit from daily and weekly caps.”

© Finn Byrne / My London 2022.

Images - Heathrow Airport Ltd unless stated otherwise

Coming hard on the heels of the consistent trials and tribulations of the past two years, this news - should it come to pass - is yet another slap in the face for travellers. And not just those wishing to fly somewhere, as Jane Taylor correctly points out in the report above.

At a time when COVID-19 infections in the UK appear to be falling, and the country's economic situation also appears to be less badly impacted than many others, for there to be yet more steep increases in costs is unforgivable. This is especially so when it appears the service provider concerned, in this case TfL, seem to want to fleece people of ever-greater amounts, using them as cash cows simply to make up lost ground because of their pandemic-induced poor finances.

When will those involved in continual price rises - be it transport, housing, food, pretty much everything - realise that there is a limit to what people can pay?

Or will they ever get that simple fact?


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