OPINION - Citymapper status update: don’t bother

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Now is not the time for drop intros – we can leave those at home – but if you read only one piece on the rail and Tube strikes, make it this one by transport journalist Christian Wolmar.

He explains why they’re taking place and whether they’re really likely to go on for months. So when you’re working from home or find yourself cheek by jowl on the bus tomorrow, you’ll at least know why.

Yet with all the understandable focus on the walkouts this week, you’d be forgiven for needing reminding that the latest financial deal for Transport for London runs out on Friday. As in, four days’ time.

Historically, there’s nothing like a deadline to get this Government to act (see Brexit, Covid etc), and frankly, ministers seem to just love the drama. But this is not the textbook way to run a transport network.

As our City Hall Editor Ross Lydall reports, Transport for London is seeking £900m for the remainder of the 2022/23 financial year, in addition to a long-term capital funding settlement.

TfL insists it has met each of the 60 conditions attached by the Government to its four Covid bailouts, including that of finding massive savings. It says it generated £616m in fares income in April and May – nearly £250m more than last year. But here’s the problem: that is still £120m lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, revenue from charges such as the congestion charge and Ulez has fallen. TfL blames the rising cost of living, specifically higher fuel prices.

The key to all this is securing something genuinely long-term. We’re not even talking about extra cash to fund Crossrail 2 or the Bakerloo line extension. This is about staving off savage cuts and general atrophy.

So our options are either pretend this is all a short-term blip, wait for passenger numbers to fully recover and limp along month by month, or we could, you know, properly fund the transport network that still makes our biggest city tick.

In the comment pages, it’s taken people from Hampstead Heath to the Thames since 1910, but now it’s under threat of closure. Tanya Gold has written a gorgeous ode to the Number 24 and the London buses facing the axe due to TfL budget cuts.

While Richard Deverell, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, says that Kew Gardens is for all of us, including the hard-up, which is why they’ve introduced a £1 entry ticket for people in receipt of benefits.

And finally, London has been named the fifth most stressful capital city in Europe to live in. I’m a little sceptical of how these sorts of rankings are compiled but Wellington somehow always seems to come out on top.

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