OPINION - TfL secures bailout, everyone is unhappy

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

The UK government is no stranger to unequal treaties. The most infamous of all was the Treaty of Nanjing, which ended the First Opium War (1839-1842) between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty.

As a result, China was forced to pay reparations, allow traders the use of five Treaty Ports and saw Hong Kong ceded to Britain.

We now turn to the long-term, multi-billion pound deal for Transport for London, reluctantly signed off by City Hall. (This intro was always a stretch but I fear it may have strayed into the grossly offensive.)

As our political reporter Rachael Burford reports, the package includes £3.6 billion for maintenance and infrastructure projects, and will enable TfL to reinstate its Healthy Streets programme, which helps encourage walking and cycling.

But cuts are still coming. The deal leaves TfL needing £230 million by April 2024. Mayor Sadiq Khan concedes this will require fare rises and the loss of some bus services.

The reality is Khan had little choice but to accept the offer on the table. TfL haemorrhaged billions of pounds during the pandemic and revenue from fares remains 20 per cent below pre-Covid levels.

And if I may change different historical contexts, while it’s not quite a century’s long battle between communism and capitalism, Khan and Grant Shapps have both set out their opposing stalls in today’s paper.

The transport secretary suggested Khan “would rather cut services than take on the Tube unions — which fund his party”.

The mayor accused the government of attaching “malicious” conditions to the long-term deal that would see City Hall face another fight with unions over pensions and driverless trains. Not quite ‘Mr Shapps, tear down this ticket barrier’ but I suppose that would have been weird.

Ultimately, it is Londoners who end up being shafted by the forever war between City Hall and central government. While the deal will fund new trains for the Piccadilly line and upgrades across the network, it looks likely to lead to cuts elsewhere and a continuation of the battle with the unions over pension reforms. The next few years are going to be a bumpy ride.

Elsewhere in the paper, Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union (and also the only one to actually be born after the 1917 revolution) has died. Tributes have poured in from around the world for the man who helped end the Cold War.

In the comment pages, this is a tough but moving piece by Rohan Silva. If your baby dies, how much time off do you get to grieve? That and other heart-wrenching questions, following the death of his baby daughter, Zola, in March.

Anne McElvoy pays tribute to Gorbachev, a towering figure of Russian politics who will never be forgotten. While Simon English, asks if the last pub in Britain close could please turn out the lights?

And finally, Reveller Editor David Ellis delivers 15 reasons to be cheerful in the guise of your autumn survival guide of fun things to do and see, from Kendrick Lamar to Open House.

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