‘Huge cuts on cards for Tubes, buses and cycle schemes’, Sadiq Khan warns

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‘Huge cuts on cards for Tubes, buses and cycle schemes’, Sadiq Khan warns
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Sadiq Khan has warned that 100 bus routes are facing the axe, 200 more will have frequencies cut and worn-out Tube trains will not be replaced until the 2040s as he revealed the full extent of the transport crisis facing London.

The changes – which could start from next month - could result in a million fewer public transport journeys a day and drive a “significant” number of Londoners back into their cars.

All new cycle and pedestrian road safety schemes would be ditched, “Vision Zero” efforts to eliminate road deaths would be paused and diesel buses would remain in use until 2037.

The dire warning came from Sadiq Khan as he laid bare the unprecedented financial crisis facing Transport for London in a high-risk attempt to force the Government to commit long-term support.

TfL is facing a £1.3billion hole in its capital investment and repairs budget beyond April 2023. Without guarantees, it will have to enter a period of “managed decline”, in which only safety-critical repairs are carried out.

City Hall says this could take London back to the unreliable and unfunded network last seen in the Seventies and Eighties.

But Government sources said that almost £5bn had already been found for TfL in three pandemic bail-outs and Mr Khan had agreed to review service levels under the terms of the deals.

TfL’s finances have taken a sudden turn for the worse, with fares income currently £141m lower than hoped as the return to work flattens out.

Tube ridership is 65 per cent of normal while bus numbers are 71 per cent of normal.

TfL also revealed that it expects to generate far less money than anticipated from the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone because more drivers than expected have switched to cleaner cars to evade the £12.50 levy.

On Wednesday night it published a 15-page briefing paper setting out possible cuts that include:

  • Delaying the replacement of the Bakerloo and Central line fleets until the “late 2030s/early 2040s”.

  • Jubilee line train upgrade not starting until the mid-2040s.

  • Closure of Rotherhithe tunnel, A40 Westway and A12 Gallows Corner flyover due to inability to fund repairs.

  • No more electric buses.

  • No more step-free stations.

  • No upgrade of Camden Town and Holborn stations.

  • No upgrade of the Piccadilly line signalling system.

  • No new station at Elephant & Castle.

  • No more “Healthy Streets” cycling and walking schemes.

  • No more 20mph zones or safer junctions.

  • Safety upgrades of Vauxhall Cross and Wandsworth gyratory ditched.

  • Boris bikes scheme not expanded and e-Boris bikes limited to a 500-bike trial.

  • “No likelihood” of restarting Crossrail 2 and Bakerloo line extensions.

King’s Cross in 1987 (GLA)
King’s Cross in 1987 (GLA)

The bus network, which has about 700 routes, would be cut by 18 per cent – more than four times the reduction already underway - and Tube services by nine per cent.

TfL chiefs say the bus reductions would be so damaging, especially to the suburbs, that years of consecutive inflation-busing fare rises might be a better option.

The Standard’s revelation this week that TfL has reintroduced up to £12m a year of bonuses for executives could harm its ability to negotiate a generous Government bail-out when its third deal runs out on December 11.

Alarm bells about TfL’s long-term finances started ringing when it failed to secure cash to maintain the capital’s creaking infrastructure in last month’s comprehensive spending review.

Early indications from the Ulez expansion on October 25 are of “fewer journeys by polluting vehicles being made compared to original expectations”. It was expected to generate up to £2m a day but that has been downgraded to £600m over three years.

Shepherd’s Bush in 1980 (GLA)
Shepherd’s Bush in 1980 (GLA)

TfL is already seeking £500m in Covid support from the Government to get it through the current financial year and £1.2bn to maintain services in 2022/23.

Dire warnings are part of the horse-trading that has become commonplace in the run-up to bail-out negotiations, but City Hall’s concerns about the lack of funding for capital projects is said to be of a new magnitude.

Mr Khan said: “Unless the Government provides the long-term funding needed to maintain our public transport network, there will be no choice but to make significant cuts to services just as demand is growing again.

“This would mean fewer, less frequent and more run-down bus and Tube services for Londoners, making it more difficult to travel around the city. It would also mean more road and tunnel closures due to a lack of funding to maintain key transport infrastructure.”

Tottenham Court Road, Central line 1990 (GLA)
Tottenham Court Road, Central line 1990 (GLA)

TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “I know first-hand the damage that underinvestment can wreak on a city’s transport system as I had to wrestle with outdated signalling systems, worn out infrastructure and inadequate capacity while serving as President of New York City Transit. I have repeatedly warned that a similar situation could easily befall London if TfL is starved of funding.

“Without meaningful sustained investment we will see a damaging vicious circle of underinvestment and service cuts, dragging London back to the 1970s and 80s era of an ageing, infrequent and unreliable transport network.”

A Government spokesman said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn 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 onto a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”

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