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London faces transport ‘riots’ by 2030, warns TfL commissioner

London could face riots unless more affordable public transport is provided for the poorest commuters, the Transport for London commissioner has warned.

Sir Peter Hendy said low-paid workers now lived on the outskirts of the capital rather than in inner-city neighbourhoods, and that there could be "social unrest" if they could not easily commute around the city for work.

"London's poor don't live in Harrow Road, they live in Enfield and Tolworth, and if you can't get them to jobs they want, your city's going to be in a bad way: it's not going to progress and contribute to national economic growth," Hendy told the Guardian. “The stakes are pretty high. If you're not able to increase transport capacity, and people find accessing work impossible, you risk social unrest. You can expect trouble.”

Bus fares in London have risen by more than 50% in six years under Boris Johnson, a policy Hendy backed to pay for investment. But he now warns that if fares continue to rise people are going to be left behind.

"The choice as we look forward is not whether people come to London, but if you have enough revenue to cope with them and whether the people who do the poorer paying jobs can access them.

"In 2016, unless there is more money we will start leaving people behind. We've had a 1-2% increase in mileage every year with a fairly substantial reduction in subsidy. The growth in bus demand has far outstripped the mileage because we haven't had the money.

“When you start leaving people behind, you start saying to people in London they may not be able to get to work on time and when that happens, you damage the economy quite severely," he said.

Hendy also believes that the capital will face “overwhelming” overcrowding on its transport networks by 2030 without further investment on new rail lines.

The government already spends £1bn a year on Tube upgrades and has invested £14.8bn in building Crossrail, but the rapidly growing population of London means an additional eight million trips a day will be made in the capital by 2030. Hendy said major infrastructure projects, such as Crossrail 2, need to be started as soon as possible.

“You just won't be able to get into or on to many of our transport networks at peak times if you don't start [these infrastructure projects] now,” he said. “When Crossrail opens, it will be full within months; the population will go on towards 10 million and you'll soon need Crossrail 2. You won't be able to do without it. In central London the overcrowding will grow to be overwhelming."

London’s population is estimated at 8.4 million and is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. "If you contemplate a London in 2030 without continuous investment and more revenue money, we will have the kind of congestion you're looking at in Mumbai," Hendy continued.

Mumbai was one of several Indian cities that were hit by protests over rail fare increases earlier this year.

Hendy and TfL will be joining counterparts in Transport for Greater Manchester in the coming weeks to push for greater powers over revenue and spending for cities.

(Image: c. Yui Mok/PA Wire)

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