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Suspending the Zipcard scheme. What is happening? Why is it happening? How will it affect young people?


What’s happening to London’s Zipcard scheme?

The government plans to suspend the Zipcard scheme, which gives free travel for under-18s, after 28 October 2020. The suspension of free travel on buses and trams for under-18s will span across all of London, be it greater London or central London.

Consequently, families need to find an extra £60 a month on average for each school-age child.

The under-18s Zipcard scheme provides millions of young Londoners with free and discounted travel. 1.5 million bus journeys and 200,000 train journeys are made daily by students to get to school. Free travel is seen as a life-line for many young Hillingdon residents, not only granting them access to school, but also to new opportunities, to meet with friends, volunteer within their communities and go to work.

Why is this being done?

In mid-May, Transport for London was on the verge of bankruptcy: the 95% reduction in passengers brought about by the national lockdown caused a significant hit to their finances. To keep the network running, the UK Government provided a £1.6billion bailout loan. As one of the many conditions of this loan, the Government are requiring Transport for London to suspend the Zipcard scheme, arguing that it is important to do so for public health reasons and to prevent overcrowding on public transport.

How are young people affected by plans to scrap the Zipcard scheme?

Here are three stories about how the cancellation of the Zipcard will affect young people from across the capital:

“It took me a year to be able to travel in Central London for my ESOL Courses which costs money. If it wasn’t free, I would've been discouraged to pay and learn how to get around my surroundings. I use my oyster card to meet up with friends, go to school and work. This decision affects unaccompanied young people – it's hard enough as it is to make friends in a new country without having to pay for travel. Every day I get the 302 to Kingsbury and come back. It would cost a lot – money I don’t have.”

From a young person who came to the UK unaccompanied, seeking asylum at the age of 16 living in Hillingdon (London)

“I have five siblings, three of which are under 18 and I’m from a working-class family. We take four buses to and from school every day. My school is 3.4 miles away from my house and there's lots of traffic, making it dangerous to cycle. I volunteer at Young Healthwatch Hillingdon and Hillingdon Youth Council in Uxbridge (4.5 miles away from my house). We can't afford to go to school and I'll have to stop volunteering without free travel. I'm starting my A-levels this year and don't want to move schools because I can't afford to commute.”

Isra Sulevani, 16, Hillingdon (London)

“Without free travel I could not afford to travel to my specialist school, which is the best school in the borough to give me a chance to be a trauma surgeon in the armed forces which is quite a job, needing good qualifications. To do this I need to ensure I am in the best environment. So next year, if this goes ahead, I am making the decision not to go to the specialist school, despite getting into the specialist school I wanted to go to, simply because I cannot afford the travel there.”

Kainaat Siddiqi, 16, Hounslow (London)

How have campaigners responded to the Government plans?

Hillingdon’s Members of the Youth Parliament (MYPs), Maryam Malik and Isra Sulevani, are calling on people to stand with them against the decision to scrap free travel for under-18s. They are part of a broad movement, including the Child Poverty Action Group and the Children First Alliance, working to support young people by expressing their concerns to the government.

They are calling for people to share on social media how the suspension of free travel for under 18s will affect their lives (using the hashtags #TransportForYouth and #DontZapTheZip).

Isra and Maryam have written an opinion piece on this issue for Hillingdon Vision. You can read their article here.

Campaign web links:

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