Sadiq Khan on Tuesday admitted an entire Tube line may have to close as a result of Transport for London’s financial crisis.
The Mayor said axing one of the Underground’s 11 lines was a “possibility” unless TfL secured long-term investment from the Government.
Mr Khan told BBC 5 Live: “One of the things we are looking into is the possibility of closing a Tube line. Why? Because closing a Tube line will make the savings, the cuts, that we need to introduce if we are going to balance our books.”
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TfL’s current Government covid bailout expires on December 11. It is seeking £500m to keep services running until next April, plus about £1.2bn for 2022/23.
But the absence of any guarantee of capital or investment funding to maintain and upgrade the Underground and the road and bus network has prompted TfL to seek immediate and cuts on an unprecedented scale.
This could include the loss of 100 of the 700 bus routes and a reduction in frequency on 200 more routes, plus a nine per cent cut to Tube services.
The Bakerloo and Jubilee lines are reportedly most at risk from cuts or closure but the Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines could also be options due to lower passenger numbers and overlapping rail or Tube services.
Mr Khan, speaking on Tuesday at the Centre for London’s annual London Conference, revealed that bailout talks had not yet started with the Government, despite there being only 12 days until the current deal expires.
“There really is so much at stake and time is running out,” he told the conference. “This unprecedented financial crisis facing TfL could have such far-reaching consequences.
“It won’t be long before London itself will no longer have London-style transport services. We will be forced to move into ‘managed decline’ leading to rundown services reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s.
“This is no exaggeration. Bus services would have to be reduced by almost a fifth. Tube services would need to be cut by nearly 10 per cent. In practice this could mean over 100 bus routes being withdrawn and the full closure of a whole Tube line.”
Asked which line might get the axe, Mr Khan told 5 Live: “Let’s wait and see. There is still time until the current deal runs out. I’m hoping the Government recognises you don’t get a national recovery without a London recovery. You don’t get a London recovery without TfL firing on all cylinders.”
TfL lost 95 per cent of its fares income at the outset of the pandemic. Tube passenger numbers have recovered to 65 per cent of normal, and buses about 75 per cent, but TfL has fallen behind budget because many commuters have not returned to a five-day week while there are few international tourists.
Mr Khan said: “The only reason we have got financial problems is because Londoners did the right thing, didn’t use public transport, and our fares plummeted.
“Unless the Government gives us a long term deal by December 11, our choices are very simple. Reducing buses by around 20 per cent. Reducing Tubes by around nine per cent.”
TfL finance chief Simon Kilonback said last week that TfL could be forced into the “full closure of a line or part of a line or smaller reductions across the whole [Underground] network”.
DLR and London Overground services are also at risk.
TfL fears having to issue a “section 114 notice” - effectively declaring itself bankrupt and handing responsibility for services back to the Government – unless its financial future can be secured.
The Department for Transport said it has already given in excess of £4bn to TfL to keep services running and was focused on getting it onto a “sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country”.
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