Says transport network will be in a state of managed decline without funding
The Mayor of London has given a stark warning about the future of London's transport network ahead of the expiry of Transport for London's (TfL) current financing arrangement. Fears are being raised that without proper funding the tube, train and bus services could return to a period of chronic underinvestment
A new package of support will need to be in place within the month but Sadiq Khan fears that it will be insufficient to maintain services at the current level and the network will go into a period of 'managed decline' which will see consistent cuts in tube, train and bus services as well as the scrapping of planned cycle routes and reduced spending on the road network. In addition, the signalling project on the Piccadilly line will need to be scrapped and the programme of making stations step free would be abandoned. Some road tunnels such as the one on the Westway could be closed due to lack of funds to maintain them.
The Mayor says that the cuts required could mean an 18% reduction in bus services and a 9% reduction in tube services.
TfL says its funding gap will grow to £1.3bn by April 2023 and, if the government does not step in to cover the financial shortfall, the required cost reductions will mean services need to be cut. The TfL finance committee released papers on Wednesday evening (17 November) predicting a financial shortfall of £1.9bn in 2023/24, much deeper than originally projected.
TfL needs £500 million from the government to see it through to the end of the financial year as passenger numbers have been below expectations and rising costs due to inflation have made it difficult to reduce spending. Tube unions are already threatening strike action over possible changes to pension arrangements. The government has previously provided a funding deal that runs until 11 December and negotiations are beginning the next stage.
The Mayor said on Twitter, "There can be no London recovery without a properly funded transport network in the capital. Fact. And there can be no national recovery without a London recovery. If the Govt fails to work with us to protect TfL, London & the whole country will pay the price for decades to come.
"We’re now less than a month away from TfL’s emergency funding deal expiring on 11 December. Not adequately funding TfL would mean fewer, less frequent bus and tube services, road and tunnel closures and widespread gridlock and disruption.
"Because the Govt doesn’t adequately fund London’s public transport network, TfL is heavily reliant on passenger fares for the vast majority of its income. When Londoners rightly stayed at home during the pandemic, TfL’s fares dried up. Londoners shouldn't be punished for that.
"London receives far less government funding for its public transport than other comparable global cities.
"The last thing we want to do is cut services when Londoners and our recovery depend on them. But if the Govt doesn’t provide the funding TfL needs, there will be no choice."
Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner said, “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.
“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 source is quoted by the Financial Times as saying that the Mayor had exacerbated TfL’s financial problems by his recent decisions to reopen the Night Tube and reduce the hours of the congestion charge.
The government is due to unveil a £96 billion rail improvement programme that it says will help transform services in the Midlands and northern England. However, it is also expected to announce that the HS2 extension to Leeds is to be scrapped.
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November 18, 2021