Boris Bike access fees to double in New Year

Kerching! - But TfL denies it's laughing all the way to the (Barclays) bank...

by Simon_MacMichael   November 7, 2012  

London Cycle Hire Scheme Bikes On Docking Station (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Charges to access London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme are set to double in the New Year as part of a range of public transport fare increases announced today by Mayor Boris Johnson. With 3.5 million journeys made last year by casual users alone, the increases are likely to prove a moneyspinner, and Mr Johnson stands accused of having undersold sponsorship of the scheme.

According to Transport for London (TfL), the increases, the first since the initiative was introduced in July 2010, “will be used to make improvements to the future operation of the scheme.”

While the press release announcing the changes effective from 2 January 2013 trumpets the fact that fare rises on London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway, the Overground rail network and buses have been kept to RPI (retail price index) plus 1 per cent, that certainly isn’t the case for the fleet of ‘Boris Bikes.’

From January, scheme members and casual users alike will pay £2 instead of the current £1 for 24-hour access, while weekly access charges will rise from £5 to £10 and annual ones – available only to registered members – from £45 to £90.

Journeys by scheme members will remain free for the first 30 minutes, and there will be no changes to the fees charged for late return (£150), non-return (£300) or damage to the hire bikes (up to £300).

There was no specific mention of changes to actual hire charges, which start at £1 for between 30 minutes’ and an hour’s use ranging up to £50 for 24 hours, the maximum allowed.

The extent of the rises in access fees has provoked a wave of criticism on social media such as Twitter, especially given the £50 million sponsorship the scheme has from Barclays until 2018 which in part was meant to contain costs to a minimum.

When quizzed by the London Evening Standard, however, a TfL spokesman claimed the increase had “absolutely nothing” to do with the bank’s funding of the scheme, while refusing to confirm on the grounds of commercial confidentiality how much of that £50 million has been paid to date.

While the fare increases for other modes of transport were kept below the assumption in TfL’s business plan of RPI plus 2 per cent thanks in part to £92 million secured from central government, none of that cash appears to have been used to offset the fare increases on the bike-sharing programme.

TfL outlined that the coming 12 months will see further investment in cycling in the capital, including expansion of the much criticised Barclays Cycle Superhighways, but there are bound to be suspicions that part of the increase in charges for the Cycle Hire Scheme will help pay for the junction review that the body launched following the deaths of several cyclists late last year, which wouldn’t have been in the budget.

Figures revealed by TfL today suggest that the success of the scheme, which has now seen 17 million journeys made in less than two and a half years with a 35 per cent increase in regular usage to 9.1 million journeys over the past year alone, mean that the increased charges will provide a lucrative source of additional revenue.

Casual use alone has risen from 1.5 million journeys in the year to September 2011 to 3.5 million in the 12 months to September 2012, and while many people paying for 24-hour access will be likely to undertake more than one trip within that period, it’s clear that the doubling of the fee will be a money-spinner, likely to add perhaps a seven-figure sum to the TfL coffers.

Commenting on the new fare structure unveiled today, Mr Johnson said: “Before the end of the year I will spell out further investment on the transport network that will help us to provide faster, more frequent and reliable journeys for Londoners; and is crucial to the economic development and growth that is so vital to our great city.

“This fares package is hugely important to our millions of passengers and I am very pleased to have secured nearly £100m that will help to keep fares as low as possible, and protect the important concessions that we offer the most vulnerable Londoners.”

Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Greater London Assembly, accused Mr Johnson of timing his announcement to coincide with the US election.

TfL says the update on fare rises today had been planned for months – the date of the election, of course, would have been known well before then. The 2016 presidential election, should anyone at TfL wish to take a note of it, is scheduled for 8 November.

“Quite shamefully Boris Johnson has decided to bury bad news,” Ms Pidgeon told the London Evening Standard. “Such steep rises would not be necessary if the Mayor had secured a far better sponsorship deal with Barclays.

“As they obtain immense benefits from the sponsorship deal they should be the first people to dig deep in the pockets to help fund the scheme,” she added.
 

10 user comments

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I'm not particularly bothered by the fare rises so long as it goes towards the Cycle Hire scheme and increased/better provisions for cyclists. I use the hire bikes whenever I'm in London, I love them - on my last visit I used 6 bikes within a 24hr period (£1) so each journey effectively worked out at 17p. I'm not bothered if it goes up to 34p, it's still cheaper than any other method of getting about (apart from walking, they've not managed to tax that yet!)

However I do want to see that funding going into better cycle provision rather than adding an extra 10% to Boris' paycheck...

posted by crazy-legs [330 posts]
7th November 2012 - 16:20

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I only use them for one-off work-to-West End journeys if I'm out for the evening and haven't brought the bike in so wouldn't bother for £2. £1 is a small fee, £2 is 60p more than the bus and only 10p less than the tube so there'll be a big drop off in casual users.

For £2 they're also going to have to improve the service - bikes and empty spaces available at peak times, terminals always stocked with paper, gears that actually work...

posted by rhyslewis [2 posts]
7th November 2012 - 16:43

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'commercial confidentiality' translated means,'We're stiffing you and don't have to explain ourselves.'

antonio

posted by antonio [810 posts]
7th November 2012 - 17:24

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Maybe I will actually be able to find a bike at 6pm in Holborn Thinking

posted by mckechan [129 posts]
7th November 2012 - 20:11

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Picked a seaside town at random (Brighton) and checked price of first sit up and beg bike hire found

Adult Bike Hire

One hour £6
Two hours £9
Three hours £12
Four hours or more £16

so what are you Londoners whinging about. £2 seems an absolute bargain to me.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [104 posts]
8th November 2012 - 9:14

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PaulVWatts wrote:
Picked a seaside town at random (Brighton) and checked price of first sit up and beg bike hire found

Adult Bike Hire

One hour £6
Two hours £9
Three hours £12
Four hours or more £16

so what are you Londoners whinging about. £2 seems an absolute bargain to me.

£2 gets you 30 minutes at a time. The Boris bikes aren't meant as an alternative to traditional pick up/drop off bike hire, in fact TFL recommends you don't use them for that as it gets expensive very quickly after the first half hour - £50 for 24 hours currently. A lot of short journeys take place in London, like station to office, and they're supposed to provide an alternative to tubes/buses that takes the same or often less time on short trips.

CraigS's picture

posted by CraigS [135 posts]
8th November 2012 - 9:30

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Just checked Boris bikes site www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14811.aspx for prices £2 would give you access in 30 minute slots for 24 hours for free not just once. So cycle all day for £2 in 30 minute slots dirt cheap. if you used the bikes in 1 hour slots it costs you currently an additional £1 for every use during the 24 hours so in future £2 still cheaper than my random example up to one hour use though I admit it Boris bikes gets more costly after 2 hours constant use. But then like you said the system is not designed for that type of usage.

Paul W

posted by PaulVWatts [104 posts]
8th November 2012 - 9:49

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PaulVWatts wrote:
Picked a seaside town at random (Brighton) and checked price of first sit up and beg bike hire found

Adult Bike Hire

One hour £6
Two hours £9
Three hours £12
Four hours or more £16

so what are you Londoners whinging about. £2 seems an absolute bargain to me.

Londoners whinging? Nice bit of regionalism there. Londoners? A huge number of the trips made on these bikes are by commuters coming into London. People aren't whinging. They are questioning the price rises and the contribution from sponsorship. Why are you 'whinging' about that?

posted by Coleman [327 posts]
8th November 2012 - 9:51

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I think everyone in London knew that the £45-a-year annual subscription was too good to last! I was amazed it was that cheap when it launched and obviously it was priced to get people interested and using it.

It's a bit hard to take a 100% hike in the prices, but to be honest even £90 a year is still very good value for what I find to be an excellent service.

posted by TeamExtreme [5 posts]
8th November 2012 - 10:33

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Out of order. You introduce something then double the price. Classic case of building a market then shagging the hell out of it. £1 to £1.10, fair enough. This is an abuse of trust. I'm not a user, I tried but at 6ft 5 the bikes are too small, but I can see why its so appealing to short people.

posted by Simmo72 [97 posts]
8th November 2012 - 12:22

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