Boris Johnson at war with Sadiq Khan over order to hike fares and expand congestion charge zone

‘The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge and taxes – & end free travel for children and older Londoners’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 21 October 2020 17:17
Boris Johnson dodges question over TfL rescue package

Boris Johnson is at war with Sadiq Khan over a threat to seize control of London transport – unless the mayor agrees to hike fares and taxes and expand the congestion charge zone.

A plea for a £4.9bn bailout for the next 18 months – after passenger numbers and revenues plummeted because of the lockdown – has been rejected unless the tough measures are accepted.

In an increasingly bitter row, Transport for London (TfL) bosses accused the government of refusing to release an auditor’s review of its finances, despite repeated requests.

And a defiant Mr Khan said: “I simply cannot accept this government plan, which would hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs at a time when so many people are already facing hardship.”

In the Commons, the prime minister did not deny that the government was instructing City Hall to make Londoners pay up to receive a rescue package.

A letter, penned by transport secretary Grant Shapps, states: “We will be taking reserve legislative powers allowing us if necessary to direct TfL.”

Instead, the prime minister ignored the impact of the pandemic altogether, accusing Mr Khan of having “bankrupted” London’s finances he had left “in robust health”.

The claim was ridiculed by Mr Khan, who tweeted: “The PM has lied to the House of Commons. Before Covid I was fixing his mess at TfL – reducing the deficit by 71% since 2016.

“Covid-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges. The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge & taxes – & end free travel for children and older Londoners.”

The government gave TfL an initial six-month package worth £1.6bn in May – but the fresh letter from Mr Shapps sets out new demands.

They are a supplement to council tax and a fares’ increase of more than the “RPI inflation + 1 per cent” model agreed in May.

The mayor is also urged to extend the central London congestion charging zone to cover the same areas as the ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ from October 2021, an 18-fold increase.

Cuts to fare concessions for children and pensioners, “pensions and workplace reform” at TfL and progress on implementing driverless trains are further demands.

Yet, Mr Johnson told MPs: “The current mayor of London had effectively bankrupted TfL before coronavirus had even hit and left a massive black hole in its finances.

“Any expansion of the congestion charge or any other measure taken to improve the finances of TfL are entirely the responsibility of the bankrupt current Labour mayor of London.”

Mr Khan told a meeting of TfL’s board that he intends to “stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners”.

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