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The Cruel Folly of the London 'Oyster Card'
Last uploaded : Saturday 12th Mar 2005 at 01:51
Contributed by : Carol Philips


This is an Awards for All article.
Some members of the staff of Current Viewpoint are disabled or have chronic illnesses but have an opportunity to express themselves through writing in a world that favours the able-bodied.

Nothing has dismayed our disabled and sick writers more than the advent of the ?Oyster Card,? an innovation from London Mayor Red Ken ?Jewish-reporter-behaves-like-concentration-camp-guard? Livingstone, who is attempting to transform the city?s tube and bus systems. He has employed American Bob Kiley for three years now for a vast sum of money and the London Underground is still the municipal train service from Hell. (My theory is that ol? Bob, with his American accent, has incurred the wrath and sullen obstinacy of the top echelons of London Underground and cannot get anything innovative or ambitious accomplished because he is a ?bloody foreigner.?)

If one has had experience of, for example, the Washington Metro, one knows that a full fare for any distance is $1.35 and this includes a transfer for a subsequent bus ride. It is a great value. Disabled people find the Metro easy to navigate, although my complaint is that it is too dark for comfort. I have 20-20 vision with specs and cannot read the notices because the lighting is so poor.

Anyway ---- Until a few weeks ago one could buy a London Bus Pass for ?37 and this entitled the holder to unlimited travel for a month on any bus in the five-zone Greater London and outer counties area. ?37 is no small cheese for a person on incapacity or unemployment benefit, but it was a better value than paying ?1 a ride. (This is significant because the government has recently slammed disabled people, saying it is time they got up and did some real bloody work. The BBC?s Andrew Marr added insult to injury by saying that the government was serving notice on depressed people to get up and get on with it. If anyone reading this has ever suffered from real depression, the idea of getting up and getting on with it is about as much fun as the joys of Abu Ghraib.)

The new Oyster Card was introduced at the beginning of 2005 to replace the Bus Pass. It means that every time you travel -- or, if you are depressed or sick on ?64 a week benefit, get up and get on with it --- an amount is deducted from the fee you paid for the pass.

So, on the old pass one could travel as often as needed in one month. Now, if one gets up and gets on with it, each trip costs 70p (about $1.30) Let us say someone is encouraged by the doctor to take several trips a day : walk around Covent Garden; tour Kew Gardens; head down to the East End and finish the day at the Wallace Collection. In the old days this would have been covered by the one-month pass. Now, such trips in one day would cost ?2.80. If one did this even every other day, the monthly cost would be ?45.00. If one wanted to go out every day of the month the cost would be closer to ?60.

The Oyster Card, which one pays for in lump sums of one?s choice, is a form of stealth tax. It inhibits the travel of those confined to home, the lonely, the isolated and unemployed people seeking work or who just want to get out of the house every day. Current Viewpoint condemns the Oyster as a another way for a mismanaged and appallingly bad transport system to drain more and more money from a public already stretched by the cost of living in one of the most expensive metropolises in the world.

Give me Washington or New York any day!

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