Tories refuse to review Watford commuter fares

20 Feb 2023

The Conservative government has rejected a proposed zoning review of Watford’s railway stations – a move that would have seen train fares slashed by half.

A government minister denied a request from the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Transport Secretary Wera Hobhouse asking for an independent review of publicly-funded body Transport for London’s zoning policy for Watford and Bushey stations.

Nascot Councillor Mark Hofman has been working with Hobhouse to raise the issue of Watford and Bushey stations being moved into TfL Zone 6 to government ministers in parliament. The current Zone 6 boundary includes Elstree and Borehamwood, Hatch End and Epping, which lies outside of the M25 in Essex.

Watford’s London Underground and London Overground stations fall in zones 7 and 8, while Watford Junction sits in a “special fares” area – dubbed ‘especially expensive fares’ by locals.

According to 2022-23 Oyster and contactless pricing, a journey from Watford Junction to Euston costs £11.20. Under the current fare structure, moving the town into Zone 6 would slash the fare to £5.50.

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “The zoning of Watford and Bushey stations is an absurd anomaly that this Conservative government could have addressed with an official independent review and through their ongoing negotiations with Transport for London. It is simply unfair for hard working commuters using Watford and Bushey stations to be paying more than double for their rail fares due to being unfairly placed in the wrong TfL zone.

“The Liberal Democrat parliamentary party will continue to call for fairer fares for Watford and Bushey railway users through our membership of transport policy committees and during our meetings with ministers in Westminster.”

Responding to a parliamentary question, Richard Holden MP, Department for transport minister, said: “Transport in London is devolved and is the responsibility of the Mayor of London and Transport for London. This includes their zoning policy. The Department has no plans to conduct an independent review of the current zoning for Watford Junction railway station, Watford High Street railway station, Bushey railway station and Watford Underground station.”

Mark Hofman, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Nascot Ward said: “The Conservative government’s refusal to review the unfair zone boundaries does nothing to help Watford commuters battling a cost-of-living emergency. They have also dismissed another golden opportunity to encourage further public transport usage to help drive down harmful climate changing carbon emissions or to support our plan to make it easier for people in Watford to hold down a job in central London by making rail fares more affordable.

Moving Watford and Bushey stations into zone six is official Watford Borough Council policy and has the support of well over 6,000 people who signed our petition in support of redrawing TfL’s London Zone boundaries.

“Now more than ever, it's time for fairer fares for Watford and Bushey commuters. This Conservative government and Transport for London have spent year’s dodging the critical issue of unfair fares. Rezoning our railway stations is the fair deal our people deserve,” councillor Hofman added.

At a Town Hall meeting in January, Watford councillors said they feared Watford commuters are “subsidising” Londoners, particularly after TfL backed out of the Metropolitan Line Extension (MLX) project in 2018, that would have seen the tube line extended from Croxley to Watford Junction.

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