I have the misfortune of living in one of the most expensive cities in England; we have a Mayor who introduced something called ‘Congestion Charge’ in order to reduce the amount of traffic travelling through London, I’m not overly sure of the reason why (apart from to make money) but a couple of things have been suggested (1) Reduce pollution and (2) Encourage more people to use public transport, thus cutting down on the number of delays on the roads. It can’t be the second thing as since the congestion charge has been in place the cost of travelling on public transport has risen steadily over the years.
The public transport system is divided into Zones, the only purposes of which are to confuse tourists and make sure they spend every last penny of their holiday money (probably in a kindly way of making sure they don’t have to worrying about the falling exchange rates). In Zone 1, you find practically everything that tourists might want to see – the theatre, nice restaurants, Buckingham Palace; the rest of the Zones are where people work and live.
When I first moved to London I lived in place called Wandsworth, which like most places in South London isn’t on the underground network. It is however in Zone 2 so I didn’t really have to worry about paying too much a month in travel costs – to get to work I would take the bus to Clapham Junction, then a train to Waterloo and finally jump on the underground to Tottenham Court Road. It cost me about £72 a month. Over those six or seven months I lived there the price slowly rose until it was about £80 a month.
Eventually I moved into Zone 1, and at the time I could get a monthly travelcard that allowed me to travel only within Zone 1 – perfect! I lived and worked within the same zone, there was no need for me to visit other zones just to get into work! Except, I was still at drama school which was in Zone 2 so every morning I’d get up at about 7am and take the bus to Vauxhall and then another to Wandsworth. Wasn’t too bad. When I left drama school this deal was still in place so I paid about £85 a month for this pleasure.
Then it all changed. I can no longer just buy a Zone 1 travelcard, I have to buy a Zone 1 & 2 monthly travelcard; it settled at around £89 a month which I thought wasn’t terrible as I was able to go visit my friends and do things that were in Zone 2 without having to go add a days travelcard to my Oyster. It went up again last year to £95, and now it costs me £99.10 a month.
I’ve decided it’s not worth it.
I can easily get a bus to and from work, much as I don’t particularly like the bus I can do it. Guess how much a bus pass costs? It’s only £53 and that covers the entire bus network, regardless of zone. This is a consideration I’m having to make now as I’m planning to move and the places I’m looking to move are out in Zone 4 and there’s no way I can afford £141 a month for a travelcard to get the train in (not the underground, the train), particularly as every year it seems to go up around £4.
We need a Mayor in London who won’t be greedy, who will start reducing the cost of getting around London. I think we also need a Transport Union that doesn’t go on strike if someone sneezes and they don’t get a “bless you”, you can earn something like £30,000 for ‘driving’ a tube train. You can’t really argue that if the cost of getting from A to B doesn’t increase these people won’t be able to demand £30,000 a year but that’s never going to happen – the underground will always be here even when it gets to the point where the only people who are able to afford to use it are the tube drivers.
As for me, I’m going to have to start embracing the bus and all the strange people that inhabit it.