Public transport could grind to a halt in London without more funds, unions warn

·3-min read
Unions claim London Underground and bus services in the capital are under threat due to a funding shortfall (PA) (PA Wire)
Unions claim London Underground and bus services in the capital are under threat due to a funding shortfall (PA) (PA Wire)

The Government has been accused of playing “Russian roulette” with the future of public transport in London amid warnings that services could “grind to a halt” unless more funds are made available.

Unions representing transport workers in the capital have joined calls for fresh investment in bus, Tube and roads budgets run by Transport for London (TfL).

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that bus services could be reduced by a fifth and Tube services by almost 10% without urgent Government investment because of a £1.9 billion funding gap.

A report to City Hall’s finance committee detailed worse than expected impacts on the transport network from the Covid-19 pandemic, and with TfL’s emergency funding deal coming to a close next month.

Unions warn transport services could face huge cuts (PA) (PA Archive)
Unions warn transport services could face huge cuts (PA) (PA Archive)

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “It’s frankly disgusting that Boris Johnson is playing Russian roulette with the future of public transport in London.

“We understand that with just a few short weeks left of the current financial support package from the Government, no discussions are planned about the additional money TfL needs to keep services running, as passenger numbers have yet to recover from pre-pandemic levels.

“Johnson may talk a good game when it comes to dealing with the challenges of climate change but failing to adequately fund public transport shows that his decarbonisation credentials are yet more hot air.

“The Government must step up to the plate before TfL services start grinding to a halt.”

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “It is clear that the Government-driven wrecking ball would reduce transport in London to rubble. We will fight that assault with every tool at our disposal if ministers don’t wake up and see sense.

“We are calling on the mayor and the people of London to stand with the transport work‎force in a campaign to secure the funding our services need.

“It would be a scandal if Covid was used as a cover to drive through an unprecedented cuts package when we need to be building back for the future.”

The TfL Finance Committee’s report details reductions of more than £1 billion in annual running costs over the past five years but says more savings will be needed because of the projected £1.9 billion funding gap.

Tube services could be cut by nearly 10%, Mr Khan warns (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
Tube services could be cut by nearly 10%, Mr Khan warns (Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

This would mean a move to a “managed decline” scenario, the report says, requiring at least an 18% reduction in bus services and a 9% cut to Tube services.

Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “There is no UK recovery from the pandemic without a London recovery and there is no London recovery without a properly funded transport network in the capital.

“During the pandemic our staff have worked tirelessly to keep services running and demand for public transport in London continues to recover and grow, with demand now regularly hitting 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

“The Government is investing in better transport around the country, which we welcome, and TfL is ready to help the Government address challenges beyond the capital.

“But a failure to provide stability and certainty for TfL means that we are now on the brink of entering a period of the managed decline of transport in London.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4 billion in emergency funding to Transport for London.

“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back on to a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”

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