"Free Transport Means Everything to Me": Understanding the impact of the suspension of free travel on under-18s

Key findings

Over 95%

of young Londoners surveyed were against the suspension of free travel.

55%

of young Londoners surveyed said that without free travel, they could not afford to go to the places they wanted to go

78%

of South Asian & Asian young Londoners were worried that their parents would struggle to make ends meet if they had to pay for transport.

Children in London have been able to travel around the capital for free, or at a discounted rate, since 2005. But as part of its bailout of Transport for London following the COVID-19 crisis, the government is insisting on suspending free travel for under 18s, to protect public health and avoid overcrowding on buses.

This report from Partnership for Young London, funded by Trust for London, is the result of speaking to over 2000 young Londoners aged 16 to 18 and explores their views on the suspension of free travel for under-18s. Partnership for Young London wanted to know what free travel meant to them, and the impact it will have on how they get to school, their families, and how they access the places and opportunities London has to offer.

It contributes to Child Poverty Action Group's Don't Zap the Zip campaign fighting to keep London's travel free for young people.

Key findings

  • An overwhelming majority of young Londoners (95.5%) said that they disapproved of the plan to cut free travel for under-18s, with two percent approving, and two percent unsure.
  • An even larger majority of young Londoners (97.8%) said that free transport was either important, or very important to them, with less than one percent saying it was not very important or not at all important.
  • Less than half of young people (43.8%) said that losing free travel would change the college or school they are considering attending, with thirty five percent saying it would not, and one in five (20.5%) saying that they were
    not sure. Young people who have care experience were more likely to say that suspension of free travel would change the school or college they were considering attending (56.8% to 40.1%)
  • A majority of young Londoners (64.1%) said that they were worried that their parents would struggle to make ends meet if they had to pay for transport, with a small proportion saying were not worried (18.1%) or not sure (17.8%).
  • Just over half of young Londoners (56%) said that if they lost free travel, they would not be able to afford to go to the places they want to go, with a small proportion saying they could afford to (17%), and around one in four not sure (27.1%).
  • Less than half of young Londoners (42.8%) said that their mental health would suffer if they had to pay for transport, with a third (28.6%) saying it would not, and a third (28.4%) saying that they were not sure.
  • A majority of young Londoners said that without free transport, they would no longer visit art galleries (52.8%), museums (49.4%), while over a third said they would no longer visit sports clubs (37.5%) or areas outside their local borough or area (30.4%).
  • Most young Londoners (71.3%) take the bus to school/college, followed by the train (16.5%), walking (5.8%), tube (4.6%), and cycling (0.6%). Almost 50% take at least two modes of transport to get to school/college.
  • Most young Londoners (72.5%) would change how they get to school or college if they had to pay for transport, with only twelve percent saying it would not, and fifteen percent saying they were not sure.
  • Less than one in five young Londoners (17.3%) said that if they lost free travel, they would cycle instead to the places they want to go, with a majority (58.6%) saying they would not, and a quarter (24.2%) not sure.
  • The majority of young Londoners (65.7%) said that they were worried that getting to school or around London is less safe without free travel, with only thirteen percent saying they were not, and one in five (21.3%) not sure.
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"Free Transport Means Everything to Me": Understanding the impact of the suspension of free travel on under-18s

Full report 10.4 MB
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