OPINION - Deadline passes for final TfL bailout deal

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

There are deadlines and there are deadlines. And then there is whatever is going on between the Government and Transport for London.

Grant Shapps had given TfL until lunchtime today to accept or reject a multi-billion-pound bailout. ‘Lunchtime’ lacks the precision or uniformity of the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’ to mark the cessation of hostilities, and given that 4pm has been and gone, we can safely assume the deadline has passed.

The Transport Secretary subsequently tweeted that the deal – amounting to an additional £3.6bn until March 2024 – remains on the table. No one has seen the details, but one can presume all manner of strings have been attached to that figure which is why TfL is poring over the document with a fine-tooth comb.

As Rachael Burford and David Bond report, the deal is understood to include capital spending for the next 20 months – though that is less than the three years requested by TfL.

It also comes with assurances that the Government will cover the difference between TfL’s revenue and costs, meaning that if fare income continues to be lower than pre-pandemic levels, the shortfall will be made up by taxpayers.

The opaqueness surrounding the whole thing reminds me of a famous quote by Nancy Pelosi, who has made the headlines for rather different reasons this week following her visit to Taiwan (the highest ranking US official to do so since 1997).

As she said in 2010 of the Affordable Healthcare Act, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” This was a clumsy phrase pounced upon by her political opponents, but it was also true. Perhaps once TfL accepts the Government’s offer, warts and all, Londoners will actually see what has been agreed to on their behalf.

In the comment pages, Defence Editor Robert Fox says if Russia is in a jam, so too is Nato, which has still not agreed or even articulated a long-term strategy and plan for Ukraine.

While Business Editor Jonathan Prynn puts his mouth where his money is and asks, property crash? Not just yet and not in London.

And finally, don’t rake yourself over hot coals. From a marinade for almost every meat to a pudding that doubles as a main, four top chefs tell David Ellis how to do the ultimate barbecue, without the hassle.

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