London Underground and buses face cutbacks and cycle schemes could be axed without urgent funding

TfL suffering ‘unprecedented financial crisis’ due to Covid-19 and capital could be ‘dragged back to 1970s’

Jon Sharman
Thursday 18 November 2021 09:34
<p>TfL is facing a £1.9bn shortfall</p>

TfL is facing a £1.9bn shortfall

London’s bus services could be slashed by one-fifth and Tubes by almost one-tenth if the government does not step in with £1.9bn of extra cash, Sadiq Khan has warned.

It is the opening salvo of the latest in a series of running battles the capital’s mayor has had with the government over funding, which has been crunched due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Khan has traded blows with Boris Johnson, who preceded him as mayor, over the running of Transport for London (TfL) since Covid-19 hit and revenue plummeted thanks to a collapse in passenger numbers.

A new TfL report published on Thursday detailed worse-than-expected impacts on the transport network, just as its most recent emergency cash injection was winding down. Mr Khan said TfL was suffering an “unprecedented financial crisis”.

And Andy Byford, the capital’s transport commissioner, warned commuters would be “dragged back to the 1970s” without more funding. “Without meaningful sustained investment we will see a damaging vicious circle of under-investment and service cuts,” he said, putting London at a disadvantage compared to other global cities.

Under what the new report described as a “managed decline” plan, all cycle schemes not currently under construction would be scrapped – potentially embarrassing for Mr Johnson, a keen cyclist whose government has promised a green revolution. Measures to improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide emissions would also stall.

If the situation became even worse, key roads including the Rotherhithe tunnel could be shut due to a lack of money for repairs, officials warned.

In a statement, Mr Khan said: “We are now less than a month away from TfL's emergency funding deal expiring on 11 December. Unless the government provides the long-term funding needed to maintain our public transport network, there will be no choice but to make significant cuts to services just as demand is growing again.

“This would mean fewer, less frequent and more run-down bus and tube services for Londoners, making it more difficult to travel around the city. It would also mean more road and tunnel closures due to a lack of funding to maintain key transport infrastructure.

“The widespread disruption and gridlock all these changes would cause would not only unfairly punish millions of Londoners for the impact of the pandemic on TfL's finances, but would put the national economic recovery at risk.”

The Labour mayor said that while he supported the government's transport investments across the country for the cause of levelling up, this should not come at the cost of “levelling down London”.

Mr Johnson has previously accused Mr Khan of “bankrupting” TfL, but the mayor said he had actually reduced a huge deficit in the network’s finances left by his predecessor.

A government spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London's transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn in emergency funding to Transport for London.

“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back onto a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”

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