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Transport for London admits it needs years of government funding to stay afloat

Transport for London (TfL) has said the government will need to provide two years of additional financial support to keep it afloat.

With the number of rail journeys in the UK dropping to lows not seen since the Victorian era, TfL has suffered massive financial losses due to the drastic decline in passengers.

In November, the government agreed a £1.7bn bailout package designed to finance it until March this year.

But TfL commissioner Andy Byford has it will “absolutely require additional subsidy for the next year and the year beyond that.”

Speaking on BBC’s Politics London programme, he said: “Obviously, we will do our bit to cut our costs, we have in the past taken a billion pounds off the cost base, there are further savings baked into this financial sustainability plan.

“But the frank or stark reality is that without government support, and with the chaos that Covid and the decimation on our finances that Covid has wrought, we absolutely will be needing financial support in the short term and we’re making a very strong case to Government to achieve just that.”

On top of its normal, routine operation of London’s transport network, TfL is also managing the Crossrail project which has had a ballooning budget reaching billions above the original estimates.

Originally due for completion in December 2018, Crossrail has faced a series of major delays, with an opening date of summer 2021 estimated in January last year followed by a further delay to 2022 in August.

“I’ve challenged my team to see if we can safely improve upon that first half of 2022 date, it has my personal attention,” Byford said.

“I’m not going to nail my colours to an earlier date until I’m certain that that can be achieved.

“We’ve had too many deadlines that have come and gone in the past, but I am driving the team to achieve the earliest, cheapest, safe possible opening date. So watch this space.”

With lockdowns imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic expected to continue for the foreseeable future, it could be months before passenger levels on London transport return to pre-lockdown levels.

In May last year, researchers found that commuters on the London Underground present a 70 times increased risk of transmitting Covid-19 to other passengers when they do not use face coverings.

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