TfL told to hike fares and strip elderly of free travel to access new £1bn bailout

Measures including extending congestion charge area ‘totally unacceptable to the mayor’, source says

Vincent Wood
Friday 16 October 2020 00:00
Public transport use has continued to drop to unprecedented levels due to the impact of the coronavirus on daily life
Public transport use has continued to drop to unprecedented levels due to the impact of the coronavirus on daily life

Transport for London (TfL) has been offered an additional billion pounds in bailout money from the government - along with further demands for fare hikes and cuts to free travel entitlements for children and pensioners, it has been reported.

The capital’s transport operator, which is overseen by the mayor’s office, first received a cash injection from the government in May on the condition the operator raise the congestion charge by 30 per cent and temporarily stop free travel initiatives for children and those over 60.

However as public transport has continued to drop to unprecedented levels due to the impact of the coronavirus on daily life, the government is understood to have offered a further £1bn to add to the previous £1.6bn financial boost.

Sources close to the talks cited by Reuters said TfL had been told by ministers that any funding would have to be accompanied by ending remaining free travel entitlements and hiking up fares.

“Negotiations are ongoing to do a deal to keep TfL services running”, the source from the mayor’s office said, adding certain demands will be “totally unacceptable” to Mr Khan.

“Conditions such as extending a £15 congestion charge to the North and South Circular and taking free travel away from children and older people would be totally unacceptable to the mayor”, the source added.

The operators income fell by 90 per cent between March and July as workers stayed clear of offices and busses were forced to temporarily provide free transport to allow drivers to socially distance from passengers as they stepped aboard.

Last month the mayor said TfL would require as much as £5.7bn over the next 18 months if the capital’s transport system was to outlast the crisis.

“We continue to discuss our immediate funding requirements with the government and hope these discussions can be concluded successfully soon,” a TfL spokesman said.

“We are doing what we can to minimise costs and aim to continue operating a full service across our network while our funding discussions continue.”

The Department of Transport did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies

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