London Mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed his frustration but claimed he fought hard as the Government has agreed to a new £1bn deal to fund Transport for London (TfL).
The new emergency funding deal, made necessary by the impact of the coronavirus on London’s transport network, is set to run until 11 December and is worth at least £1.08bn, but does include a raft of cuts across TfL operations.
TfL’s last emergency deal, struck in November, ran out on Friday, following a ten-day extension.
Khan called the negotiations tough, but felt that he was able to remove what he labelled the worst of the Government’s conditions.
He said: “I have tried to build bridges with the Government as this is in the best interest of Londoners and our businesses, but I want to be honest with Londoners: this is not the deal we wanted, but we have fought hard to get it to the best place possible and to ensure we can continue to run vital transport services at this crucial time for our city.
“After some extremely tough negotiations, we have successfully managed to see off the worst of the conditions the Government wanted to impose on London, which would not only have required huge cuts to transport services equivalent to cancelling one in five bus routes or closing a Tube line, but would have hampered London’s economic recovery as well as the national recovery.
“The Government is still insisting that TfL look at options to raise a further £500m to £1bn of revenue per year by 2023. I have been clear to the Government that there are very few options to do this and forcing TfL to impose draconian additional measures on London would be unacceptable.
“I will continue to work with the Government to identify an appropriate source of funding, but I am hopeful that as London bounces back from the pandemic, and income from fares continues to increase, we’ll be able to avoid introducing any unfair measures on Londoners, as the additional fares revenue may be able to meet Government demands.
“It’s important to remember that TfL only needs emergency funding from the Government because its income from fares dropped by up to 90% because Londoners followed the rules by staying at home and avoiding public transport during the lockdown.
“In my first four years as Mayor I reduced TfL’s deficit by 71% and increased its cash balances by 13%. TfL is a world class transport authority.
“TfL is also being forced to undertake some early development work on the business case for driverless trains.
“However, I’ve made it crystal clear to Ministers that we will object to any future requirement to force TfL to implement driverless trains on the London Underground. It would cost billions of pounds and would be a gross misuse of taxpayers’ money at this critical time for our country.
“This short-term settlement is yet another sticking plaster so I will seek to work with the Government over the months ahead to agree a longer-term funding deal for TfL that is both fair and right for Londoners and the whole country.
“I’ve repeatedly said that I want to build bridges with the Government and work constructively with Ministers in London’s interest – and the national interest – as we seek to recover from the pandemic.
“This remains the case, but I’ll always stand up for London and be honest with Londoners when the Government makes decisions that could negatively impact our city.”
The director of London’s official transport watchdog TravelWatch Emma Gibson said: “While we are pleased that TfL have had their funding deal extended, we need to know how the new £300m savings will be made.
“Being able to socially distance is the number one concern of Londoners returning to public transport for the first time.
“The savings required as part of TfL’s new finance package must not result in cuts to the frequency of buses and trains, because that would make them more crowded, reduce passenger confidence and in turn risk London’s economic recovery.”