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TfL funding deal will see cuts to bus services and fare price increases

Image credit: dt

The government has agreed a £1.2bn funding agreement with Transport for London (TfL) that will help it stay afloat in the wake of lost revenue from the Covid-19 pandemic, although grave reservations remain.

Despite the essential cash injection, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned that the money still leaves “a significant funding gap” which could lead to the closure of some bus services and increases to fare prices.

In 2020, the number of rail journeys undertaken by passengers fell to lows not seen since the Victorian era, with buses also facing massive reductions in passengers.

TfL later warned that London transport could be forced into a ‘managed decline’ scenario if the government did not provide the emergency funding needed to maintain the capital’s transport services.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the new funding will ensure the network is protected against potential lost revenue caused by uncertainty of post-pandemic demand, alongside some modernisation and network upgrades. This will include new Piccadilly line trains, as well as upgrades across the District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City, and Circle lines.

Specific upgrades include supporting the long-awaited repair of Hammersmith Bridge, the extension of the Northern Line and improvements to Elephant and Castle station.

The deal will also dedicate £80m annually to active travel schemes, such as expanding walking and cycling infrastructure, to reduce congestion and pollution across the capital. The deal also sees the establishment of an independent property company that will start on 20,000 homes on TfL’s land within 10 years.

As part of the agreement, Khan has agreed to continue work on the introduction of driverless trains on the London Underground.

Khan said: “This funding agreement comes after more than a month of tough negotiations because I’ve been determined to stand up for London and to fight for our transport network, which so many Londoners and businesses rely upon.     

“The good news is that we have managed to win a number of key concessions from the government, which mean we will be able to avoid TfL having to make the devastating cuts to vital transport services previously proposed, moving us away from the managed decline of London’s transport network.

“However, I want to be frank with Londoners: this deal is far from ideal. The government is still leaving TfL with a significant funding gap, meaning we will likely have to increase fares in the future and still proceed with some cuts to bus services.

“There are also onerous strings attached, such as the government’s condition requiring TfL to come up with options for reform of TfL’s pension scheme at pace, which could well lead to more industrial action and more disruption for commuters.”

TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “The support offered by government left an unfunded gap in our budget, which we have been working hard to identify how we will fill.

“This work has made good progress and we are confident that we will achieve an outcome that allows us to balance our budget and maintain our minimum cash balance. We will need to progress with our plans to further modernise our organisation and make ourselves even more efficient and we will still face a series of tough choices in the future, but London will move away from the managed decline of the transport network.”

Speaking for the government, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “This deal more than delivers for Londoners and even matches the Mayor’s own pre-pandemic spending plans, but for this to work the Mayor must follow through on his promises to get TfL back on a steady financial footing, stop relying on government bailouts and take responsibility for his actions. Now is the time to put politics to one side and get on with the job – Londoners depend on it.”

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