TfL funding crisis: Million fewer public transport journeys a day unless long-term deal is agreed, warns Sadiq Khan

·4-min read
TfL funding crisis: Million fewer public transport journeys a day unless long-term deal is agreed, warns Sadiq Khan

A million fewer journeys a day will be made on public transport unless Transport for London can secure a long-term funding deal from Government, Sadiq Khan warned on Thursday evening.

It came as the Government granted TfL an 11th hour extension on its current funding deal for three weeks to keep services running until a fifth bailout can be agreed.

But a furious mayor made no secret of his frustration that TfL was again being left at the mercy of the Government, with no response to its request for a final £900m to see it through the current financial year. The current £200m deal was due to expire on Friday night.

Mr Khan accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “treating Londoners with contempt” in failing to secure TfL’s finances. The Government has already provided almost £5bn on bailouts since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Khan, who called media to a rapidly organised speech at West Ham bus garage, said gridlock and soaring levels of toxic air would result if TfL had to kept cutting services.

TfL is currently consulting on axing 22 bus routes and reduce the frequencies on almost 60 more, but Mr Khan said further cuts were inevitable if TfL was forced into a “managed decline” scenario.

This would result in a 10 per cent cut in Tube services and of 18 per cent on the bus network - meaning the loss of 100 bus routes.

He said: “Cuts on this scale have never been seen in London before.

“This is not sabre-rattling or scaremongering. It’s in TfL’s official budget.

“It’s no way to treat Londoners and the transport network they rely upon.”

However, Mr Khan has faced a backlash from Tory MPs in London as a result of his proposed bus cuts.

MPs such as Greg Hands, who represents Chelsea and Fulham, said Mr Khan had failed to find savings within TfL. Nickie Aiken, the MP for the Cities of Westminster and London, suggested the Department for Transport should take TfL out of the mayor’s control as punishment for the ongoing Tube strikes and proposed bus cuts.

A letter from Mr Shapps to Mr Khan, seen by the Standard, confirms TfL’s current deal is being extended to July 13.

But it takes issue with many of the mayor’s claims, which it describes as “false” and “untrue”.

Mr Shapps the Government is “open” to a long-term funding deal, with top-up day-to-day funding as required, but warns this will require a “reset” of the relationship with City Hall.

Mr Shapps wrote: “As we have told your officials for more than a year, we in fact think that cutting services should be your last resort, not your first, to achieve financial sustainability. We have consistently said that you should instead try to cut costs and generate revenue, including with more bus priority, which makes journeys faster and more reliable, allowing you to maintain the same frequencies with fewer buses and making services more attractive to passengers, bringing in more fare income.

“In short, the new cuts are not necessary and will not save much money. They have been artificially created by you as a political weapon in your campaign for a long-term capital funding deal.

“As you know, we do want to give TfL a longer-term capital deal. But your tactics are the wrong way to achieve one. They are harming London’s interests. If we are to make a longer-term funding commitment, you must keep your promises and we must be able to deal with you and TfL on a basis of honesty and seriousness, not campaigns of scaremongering and threats. TfL’s services are at no risk, unless you want them to be, and should not be undermined for political ends.

“As we have stated before, we will continue revenue support, in further temporary deals if necessary. We are extending the current deal until 13 July. We remain open to giving you a longer-term capital settlement. But it will require a reset of the relationship.”

In a statement on Thursday evening, Mr Shapps accused Mr Khan of failing to meet the requirements of previous bailouts.

He added: “Department for Transport officials have met TfL on a regular basis to try and agree this deal and the Mayor is well aware of this – to suggest anything else is simply not true and an attempt to deflect from his inability to responsibly manage the capital’s transport finances, despite receiving almost £5bn of Government bailouts.”

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