War veterans in London are to receive free travel on the capital’s transport network, whether they are residents or visitors, in recognition of their service to the country.
From 2 November all war veterans in receipt of a pension under the War Pensions Scheme or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme, including war widows and widowers and eligible dependents, will be able to travel for free on Transport for London bus, Tube, tram, Docklands Light Railway and London Overground services. The Train Operating Companies have also backed the Mayor in agreeing that war veterans will be able to travel free on their services within Greater London. The new scheme will particularly benefit the estimated 2,600 war veterans, war widows and widowers aged under 60 living in London who are not eligible for a freedom pass. On average, they are expected to save around £200 each a year. This will be particularly useful in enabling wounded service personnel to travel to receive medical treatment, as well as making life easier for the significant number of veterans who battle with post-traumatic stress and other mental health problems.
Boris Johnson said: “War Veterans can often have a hard time when they return, sometimes facing issues such as serious injury, mental illness and unemployment. Those that have lost spouses or parents have also suffered for the service they have given. Yet in both cases they are not entitled to existing travel concessions. “I want to change that, and am pleased that, from November, London will be doing its bit in recognising the unflinching contribution that these men and women of the forces have made, by offering free travel throughout the capital for inured veterans.”
Derek Twigg, the Minister for Veterans at the Ministry of Defence, said: “I am delighted that London has made this highly practical concession to our injured veterans and war widows and hope that other authorities may be able to adopt a similar scheme”.
Ross Kemp, BAFTA award-winning documentary maker and star of Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, said: “This is a brilliant idea and I advocate the same for travel for all servicemen and women across the UK as many are based far from their families. US servicemen and women receive discounts in many food chains and cinemas. Why cant we do this here?’”
Russell Thompson, Director of National Events and Fundraising at The Royal British Legion, said: “The Royal British Legion warmly welcomes the Mayor of London’s initiative of free travel for injured veterans and qualifying dependants. Announced on Veterans Day for implementation during the Remembrance period this year, the initiative goes some way to recognising the incredible contribution that members of our Armed Forces have made and continue to make in service of their country; and we would hope that local authorities around the country will consider similar measures.”
TV producer Colin Burgess, a 41-year-old ex-Army Major who served as a reconnaissance pilot in Northern Ireland in 1993, as well as on a peacekeeping tour of Central America in 1988, said : “The news that injured veterans will receive free network travel around the capital is fantastic and will bring us closer to the situation in other countries such as America and Australia where injured and non-injured Veterans are given wide-ranging benefits. “One of the great things about the army is that you are encouraged to believe that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. Soldiers expect things to go wrong: for the transport not to be available; for the equipment to break; for the plan to have to change. And managing change is a great ability to have whether you are on army operations or managing a TV production”.