The Mayor of London kicked off his campaign for a third term in office yesterday with a pledge to extend free travel for pensioners.

The Freedom Pass for the over 60s and disabled people cannot currently be used before 9am on weekdays.

In a bid for the votes of the million pass users in the capital, Ken Livingstone said the new policy “is part of my central goal of ensuring that London’s public transport system is reliable and open to every Londoner.”

Pensioners groups welcomed the move, which would cost £20m, paid for by Transport for London.

Mr Livingstone’s opponents questioned his motives and the wisdom of allowing people to travel at peak times.

An estimated 1.8 million Londoners are using the transport network at 8.30am on an average weekday.

The Conservative party candidate for Mayor, Boris Johnson, backed the plan to extend the freedom pass.

“Ken Livingstone has had eight years to do this in London – it’s eight years too late.

“All of a sudden it’s election year and here it is,” he said.

Brian Paddick, the Lib Dem candidate, opposed the Mayor’s plan.

“I guarantee to keep the Freedom Pass, even if I have to take over the funding for it myself, as Mayor.

“To try to force more people into overcrowded trains is nonsense.

“The tube and rail network is overrun at peak times. Most pensioners can get to their local GP or hospital by bus and I have no objection allowing bus travel before 9 am.”

The row over pensioner travel is the first in what looks set to be a fractious campaign for Mayor of London. The election will be held on May 1st.