OPINION - ‘Bus and Tube cuts on the way’ unless funds deal agreed

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

As forms of communication go, from highest (face-to-face) to lowest (Instagram story reply), the open letter sits somewhere in the bottom third.

If executed well, you can still make the political weather (Jesse Norman). If done badly, you leave everyone in a state of mild confusion (Andrea Leadsom).

Sadiq Khan has issued one of his own, addressed to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, warning of the looming threat to London’s transport network in the absence of a long-term funding settlement for TfL.

The latest £200m government bailout for TfL, announced in February to help it maintain services as it attempts to recover from the financial damage caused by the pandemic, is due to run out on June 24.

The Mayor writes that unless a new agreement is struck in the next two weeks, TfL will be “forced to start work on enacting its managed decline scenario.”

This includes cutting a staggering 80 bus routes, which would represent an overall 18 per cent reduction, as well as a nine per cent reduction in Tube services, what Khan says would be equivalent to closing an entire line.

The Mayor then went on to assert that, despite the impending deadline, he is yet to hear from Shapps and that the DfT and Treasury have cancelled 20 meetings with TfL since the last funding deal was struck.

In response, a DfT spokesperson said: “This is just another example of the Mayor refusing to take responsibility and fulfil his promise of making TfL financially stable despite numerous bailouts from the Government adding up to almost £5bn.” So more of the same, then.

In all the excitement surrounding the opening of the Elizabeth Line, the parlous state of TfL’s finances and the permanent bickering between City Hall and central government was pushed to one side. But it is very much back on the agenda.

Rather than lurching from crisis to crisis, TfL needs that long-term deal, without which it risks a vicious cycle whereby reduced ridership drives diminished investment, leading to a less reliable transport network that further dissuades people from using it. In the meantime, how TfL Commissioner Andy Byford is expected to plan for the future while living hand-to-mouth is unclear.

Elsewhere in the paper, Covid infections have risen for the first time in two months. The jump has been attributed to an increase in cases compatible with the original Omicron variant BA.1 as well as the newer variants BA.4 and BA.5. A total of 989,800 people in private households are estimated to have had the virus last week, up from 953,900 the previous week.

In the comment pages, journalist and former girlfriend of Boris Johnson, Petronella Wyatt, says the Prime Minister can’t stop lying any more than he can stop blinking – it’s involuntary. While writer and host of the Literary Salon, Damian Barr, laments that the Costa Book Awards are no more, and calls for a new national prize.

And finally, what does your club’s perfect transfer window look like? Our indefatigable sports team run the gamut on Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man Utd and Liverpool.

Have a lovely weekend.

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