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“It felt like a kick in the teeth to find myself paying to go home after a 12 hour nightshift.”

In June, we launched a campaign calling for a halt to the suspension of travel concessions for older Londoners making essential journeys before 9am. Older Londoners are cautious and responsible travellers with the overwhelming majority avoiding public transport at peak times. The campaign is about those that do not have a choice about when and how they travel. Older Londoners that care for relatives, have early morning medical appointments, rely on early supermarket priority hours and essential volunteers will all be adversely affected.

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More people work in their 60s, 70s and older in London than in any other part of the country. Many are keyworkers 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 Peter H, a keyworker in his 60s who told us how he is affected.

Peter is a keyworker that uses his 60+ Oyster card to commute home after his night shift in a north London supported housing unit for vulnerable adults with mental health issues. We spoke to Peter recently to ask about the impact of the suspension on older keyworkers and why it is so important to protect travel concessions in London.

How did you feel when you found out about the change?
“I received the email from Transport for London (TfL) a week after the Thursday clapping finished, and read it with disbelief and an anger that grew and grew, firstly aimed at TFL, then the Mayor, before learning that the restrictions on the Oyster concessionary fares had been imposed by the government as a condition of the bailout.

Throughout the lockdown I had been working as a Night Recovery Worker in a Mental Health unit, and along with all the others in essential jobs, the nurses the doctors, had been hailed and applauded, a ‘brave Keyworker’; I had never thought of myself as a ‘front line hero’, but it felt like a cynical kick in the teeth to lose my concession and find myself paying to go home after a 12-hour night shift. I was fuming and remain so. I believe these restrictions are an absolutely shameful disgrace.

I spent the night, and several days tweeting and emailing, but apart from friends and a few other keyworkers, there was little response, there were more sensational items of news at the time.”

What is/has been the immediate impact of the change on you?
“The impact on my life is firstly financial. I finish work at 8am and cannot use my Older Persons Oyster card until 09:00, so I have to pay the fare of £3.30. I estimate the total I will have to pay per month to be just over £30. I earn £11.49 an hour and unless I can get overtime, I cannot make ends meet.

But it’s not really about the money for me. I cannot accept that one week I am being praised as a keyworker, and the next being forced to pay for the effects of the lockdown.”

If the change continues for the foreseeable future (4 months or longer), how might this affect you?
“Without overtime, it would put a strain on my finances.”

Why do travel concessions for Londoners over 60 matter? What would you say to a Mayor (or anyone else) considering the long-term future of travel concessions?
“Travel concessions are important for the over 60s who have worked all their lives, often in a much more physical and tiring occupation than my own, and all their lives they have paid their way on London Transport.

Working in mental health, one of our concerns is to encourage service users not to isolate. It is when a person is on their own that all their fears and anxieties emerge. It is clear from the enforced isolation of lockdown that everyone’s mental health suffered. Free travel for older citizens enables them to escape from the home and enjoy life to the full.

Concessionary fares would certainly be important for me when deciding on a new Mayor.”

Ask the Mayor to stop the suspension of early morning travel concessions for older Londoners.