OPINION - The Standard View: Forget “managed decline”, we need a new deal for Transport for London, now

·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

It is no way to run a city, let alone the country’s economic powerhouse. The latest short-term funding deal for TfL runs out tomorrow. Without a new agreement, the Mayor says that the network will have no choice but to enter a period of “managed decline” that could overturn years of progress.

It would, he says, mean cuts to scores of vital bus routes at a time when people are desperate to find cheaper transport and the Government claims to want to see workers return to city centres. And as for developments such as Crossrail 2 or the Bakerloo line extension? Forget about it.

This may well be sabre-rattling by City Hall, yet the Conservative Party — for so long the self-styled party of business — should understand that no organisation can prosper operating hand-to-mouth, unable to plan for the future. This is what TfL commissioner Andy Byford is permanently forced to do.

It need not be like this. Instead of cancelling meetings and briefing against the Mayor, ministers need to put our city first. That means sitting around the negotiating table, today, to ensure the capital has a functioning transport network tomorrow. The PM, a former mayor, is often at pains to say that levelling-up Britain does not mean levelling-down London. This is his chance to prove it.

Talk to the teachers

First rail workers, now teachers? The joint general secretaries of the National Education Union have threatened to ballot members on strikes action unless ministers offer an “inflation-plus” pay deal.

Teachers, many of whom are priced out of living anywhere near their schools, particularly in the capital, are like the rest of us seeing their pay fall behind the soaring cost of living. This will only worsen the high rate of churn in the profession, where in 2019, only two-thirds of newly-qualified teachers remained after five years.

But if the Government wants to rehash the playbook it employed to deal with the rail strikes, it should think again. While double-digit pay increases may not be feasible, there is equally little appetite among the public for a campaign of division directed at teachers.

After two years of Covid, further disruption is the last thing pupils need. Instead, there must be genuine and good faith attempts to engage, alongside an honest dialogue with the public about what can and can’t be done.

A new polio threat

That poliovirus, the virus that causes polio, has been detected in sewage samples collected from east London tells us two things. First, the eradication of polio around the world is not yet complete. And second, the benefits of sewage surveillance undertaken by the UK Health Security Agency are substantial.

It is also a reminder, should we need it, that vaccination is of the utmost importance. Yet polio vaccine uptake in London is lower than the national average, at 89 per cent by age two. The target to keep the UK polio-free is 95 per cent.

Health chiefs are urging Londoners to ensure their children are fully vaccinated. Anyone unsure should check their vaccine records and if they have not had all three doses, contact their GP.

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