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Hike fares to maintain social distancing - IFS

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The Institute of Fiscal Studies has suggested adjusting peak hours rail, tube and bus fares and suspending the congestion charge to flatten peak commuter demand for public transport in London.

According to IFS research, in normal times 20% of London workers are commuting at 8.30am – a peak which needs to be spread out more evenly. Options include changing the relative price of peak-time travel, suspending the London congestion charge and encouraging firms to innovate in shift scheduling.

The recommendation is part of new IFS analysis on the economics of getting people back to work which also suggests providing incentives or subsidies for home working.

The IFS analysis revealed that Londoners are both much more likely than others to use public transport to get to work and more likely to be able to work from home, given the nature of their occupations. 

Pre-crisis, more than half of workers who live in London used public transport to commute, compared to 1 in 8 in the rest of the country.

This suggests scope to use public transport in London selectively. Based on pre-crisis data, almost two-thirds of London workers who commute using public transport are in occupations that are compatible with home working.

Robert Joyce, Deputy Director at IFS and an author of the report, said: “The economy is in uncharted territory and steering a safe and prosperous path out of lockdown will be difficult. Some old principles applied to this new situation will be crucial.

“More than ever the government needs to adjust policy to incentivise newly desirable behaviours like home working and avoiding public transport at peak hours.”

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