Axing the Zip card will only make things worse on London’s congested roads

20 October 2020

London’s transport watchdog has warned that axing free travel for Oyster Zip card holders could turn young Londoners away from public transport and help embed a dependency on the car in the future.

In a letter to MPs, London TravelWatch highlighted the findings of its latest survey with Transport Focus which show that 33% of Londoners plan to use their car even more once the current pandemic is over*. Parents are even more likely to say that they will drive more in future than non-parents. This is a worrying trend especially given a major finding in research commissioned by the Department for Transport in 2014** that the Zip card scheme reduced car travel and normalised bus use, helping to reduce car dependence in later life.

London TravelWatch Director, Emma Gibson commented: ‘The initial aim of removing free travel for under 18’s with Zip cards was to help reduce demand on public transport but since the success of the return to school in London this September, this no longer seems to be an issue.

We’re really concerned that removing free bus travel from some under 18’s will have wide ranging effects beyond the current pandemic with young people deterred from using public transport and taking to driving instead. There are already worrying signs that a third of Londoners plan to use their cars even more post-Covid, particularly parents. Congestion on London’s roads is back to pre-pandemic levels, but the Government’s own research indicates that retaining free travel for under 18s could be an important factor in discouraging car use both now and in the future.’


Notes to editors

  1. London TravelWatch is the operating name for the London Transport Users Committee. We are the official watchdog representing the interests of transport users in and around London, and independent of the transport operators and government. London TravelWatch is sponsored and funded by the London Assembly, part of the Greater London Authority.
  2. *This is available in the latest Transport Focus omnibus survey:
  3. **A detailed discussion of the study can be read at:
  4. For more information, please contact the London TravelWatch press office on 020 3176 5941 or 07734 055494.
London TravelWatch London TravelWatch London TravelWatch
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