Thousands of cash-strapped campaigners demand return of free rush hour travel in London

Tap above to watch video report by Daniel Henry

Thousands of older Londoners are demanding the return of free rush hour travel in London after the benefit was dropped at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Charity Age UK London is delivering a 10,000 signature petition to the capital's Deputy Mayor for Transport, Seb Dance.

The perk was given to more than a million people aged over 60, but shelved in 2020 to free up space on public transport for key workers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan will decide by the end of the year whether or not to reinstate the benefit which costs cash-strapped Transport for London up to £18 million.

Campaign supporter Reve Adedayo Ige said: "I am seventy. I have a meagre pension and rely heavily on my Freedom Pass.

"I have hospital appointments in the morning, but I cannot use my card until 9am and travel before this time costs me about £8 which is huge amount of money for me.

"So please remove the restrictions."

Recent research, commissioned by Age UK London, shows that two in three of Londoners aged sixty or over who travel before 9am on weekdays do so either to attend a health appointment (31%), for work (28%) or due to caring responsibilities (8%).

Figures also show since the suspension was introduced, 37% of people have reduced the number of journeys they take and 27% have cut costs in other ways in order to afford to travel before 9am.

Another supporter added: "I am 64 years old and have been affected by the suspension financially, as I am still in employment starting work at 8am.

"Not being able to use my 60+ Oyster and having to pay has put a big amount strain on me with my budget."

City Hall said the Mayor fully understood how worried Londoners were about rising inflation, costs and making ends meet.

However Transport for London's finances were "decimated" by the pandemic.

A statement added: "The Government set strict conditions as part of emergency funding deals to keep essential services running and the latest funding deal has still left TfL with a £230m funding gap.

The Mayor managed to save free or discounted travel for under 18 year olds and those with a 60+ Oyster or Freedom Pass on London's Tubes, buses and trains.

"While the Mayor managed to save these concessions from being scrapped, he has been forced to consider permanently changing the hours of use of 60+ and Older Persons' Freedom Passes to after 9am.

"However, no final decision has been made and any change would be supported by consultation with appropriate key stakeholders and an Equality Impact Assessment."

What You Need To Know is our regularly updated podcast with information and analysis that you can trust on the biggest stories in the UK and the world