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"Remove travel concessions and you remove a lifeline"

In June, we launched a campaign calling for a halt to the suspension of travel concessions for older Londoners making essential journeys before 9am. It is expected that further restrictions will be announced at the end of October and we are particularly concerned about the 60+ Oyster photo card, which is a lifeline to thousands. The campaign is about those that do not have a choice about when and how they travel. Older Londoners are key workers. they care for relatives, have early morning medical appointments and are essential volunteers. We need to stand up for older Londoners on low incomes who have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

More people work in their 60s, 70s and older in London than in any other part of the country. Many are key workers that can’t work from home and will now have to pay full fares which they will struggle to afford. We recently caught up with Deborah Manning, 60, who leaves home at 07:30am to get to work by 09:00.

Deborah uses her 60+ Oyster card to commute and to visit socially isolated friends across London. We spoke to Deborah recently to ask about the impact of the suspension on older Londoners on low incomes and asked why it is so important to protect travel concessions in London.

What journeys do you make before 9am on weekdays?
“I leave home around 7:30am in order to arrive at work in central London by 9am. I take both the tube and bus on my journey. I recently turned 60 and my 60+ Oyster card was a lifeline as it’s incredibly costly to travel in London and I don’t earn very much.”

What has been the financial impact of the suspension on you so far?
“It has been absolutely dreadful already. It is now costing me an additional £42 per week to pay for a travel card. I’ve already had to cut back on food bills and there’s no way to get them down even further. I simply can’t afford to keep paying this money out. My travel costs are now reaching nearly £200 per month, which is a hell of a lot. I don’t think politicians realise that many Londoners like me were already just trying to survive.”

If the suspension continues or concessions are removed for another three months or even longer, what will the impact be on you?
“I work on a fixed term contract that ends early next year and have no savings to fall back on.”

“It’s hard enough finding a job when you’re over 60. It’s much harder now because of the pandemic and there’s no way I can afford to stop working even though I know any job I find is likely to be low paid. These restrictions on concessions will really limit my ability to travel for work and the distances in London can be huge. I’ve heard that one in three older Londoners made redundant don’t expect to work again. I’m really concerned about becoming another unemployment statistic. “

“If I continue having to pay full fares I won’t be able to have my heating on and my flat is often cold. I will have to have fewer hot baths and won’t be able to cook proper meals.”

Outside of your commute, is this having an effect on other types of journey you make?
“Yes, I live alone and my friends are based in other parts of London and many of them have health issues. As a result, I frequently travel a long way to see them. Without concessionary travel, there’s no way I can afford to keep these visits up. I already feel socially isolated and I don’t think I will be able to go on if these changes last much longer.”

If a politician asked you what they shouldn’t remove travel concessions for older Londoners what would you say?
“Remove travel concessions and you remove a lifeline. Older people have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Taking away concessions is cruel and will impede people’s ability to connect with each other. This has already had a massive impact and I’ve been left feeling desperate.”