Thousands are demanding the return of free early London travel for over-60s

The benefit – granted to around 1.3million people over 60 – was suspended for weekday travel before 9am shortly after the pandemic began in June 2020, mainly to ensure public transport remained free for key workers.

However, the Mayor is due to decide by the end of the year whether to keep the restriction permanent, which would result in fares of around £15million to £18million for transport for cash-strapped London.

Charity Age UK London will bring a petition signed by more than 10,000 people to City Hall on Tuesday afternoon calling for the benefit to be reinstated.

The permanent cancellation of freedom to travel before 9 a.m. is the “wrong decision at the wrong time” due to the cost of living crisis.

There are also concerns that the qualifying age for the 60+ Oyster, which gives Londoners free bus, tube and train travel until they receive the Freedom Pass at retirement age 67, is being raised each year to exclude more people .

Peter Henderson, 65, an NHS carer who signed the petition, said he spent around £30-35 a month getting home to Harlesden at 8am after a 12-hour night shift in Harrow.

He said the power withdrawal a week after Thursday night’s “Clap for the NHS” events ended “felt like a kick in the teeth”.

He said: “After being applauded one week, the next week I was asked to reach into my pocket. I accept that TfL has lost a lot of money during the pandemic, but asking the older and more vulnerable members of society is unacceptable.

“Not only do the reduced fares help those who have physical problems, for those living alone, being able to get around London instead of staring at four walls is a significant way to maintain and improve their mental health.”

A study by Age UK London found that 39 per cent of Londoners over 60 had to travel before 9am. More than a quarter went to work, while 31 percent attended health appointments. Eight percent had to travel to fulfill care responsibilities.

More than a quarter of respondents said the ban on free travel before 9am prevented them from making essential trips.

Mr Khan last December first announced proposals to increase the qualifying age for the 60+ Oyster by six months every year for the next 12 years – until it is effectively merged with the Freedom Pass, which is funded by London Councils.

However, the qualifying age has yet to change – and City Hall says a final decision on the 9am start time has yet to be made.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said: “The Mayor fully understands how concerned Londoners are about rising inflation, costs and survival.

“TfL’s finances have been decimated by the pandemic and the Government has imposed strict conditions under emergency funding arrangements to keep essential services running.

“He was forced to consider permanently restricting the use of the liberty passes for over-60s and older to after 9am and to consider a gradual increase in the eligibility age for the over-60 concession. However, no final decision has been made yet.”

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