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Sadiq Khan threatens Tube and bus cuts unless government hands TfL more billions

Transport for London (TfL) will have to make “significant cuts” to Tube and bus services in the capital to make up a gap in its budget that could stretch to nearly £3b, Sadiq Khan has warned.

London’s transport agency will also have to cut much of its infrastructure investment to meet the shortfall unless the government steps in with a long-term funding agreement when the current short-term deal runs out on December 11, a report to the London Assembly added.

TfL’s finances were decimated in the pandemic as people were told to stay at home and avoid public transport. Unlike transport agencies in many other major cities around the world, TfL is heavily reliant on fare income to make up its budget.

TfL will be forced to adopt a ‘managed decline’ stance on its infrastructure and operations, meaning services will be heavily reduced and trains, buses and stations will be allowed to age instead of being replaced or upgraded, the report said.

The agency said its ‘funding gap’ – the difference between its budget and outgoings – would be £1.7b in the next financial year, rising to £2.7b the year after that and falling again to £2.4b the following year. Switching to a ‘managed decline’ or even ‘lower than managed decline’ spending regime would be necessary to cut the gap.

Some 100 bus routes would be likely to go entirely under the ‘lower than managed decline’ scenario, with another 200 to operate reduced services. Some 9 per cent of Tube services would be cut.

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Meanwhile many infrastructure projects would be dropped to cut costs, including the Bakerloo Line Extension being suspended “with no long-term likelihood of restarting”. The Rotherhithe Tunnel might be forced to close and the Elephant and Castle station upgrade – funded to the tune of £63m by Southwark Council – would not go ahead.

Planned upgrades to the Bakerloo Line and Jubilee Line trains would be pushed back to the 2030s and 2040s respectively, making them among the oldest trains in the country.

TfL would not be able to fund more ‘step-free access’ schemes to make trains and stations easier to use for disabled people. Expansion of the cycle hire scheme would be paused and funding for other active travel measures would be paused.

All of these measures would be likely to drive people away from public transport and into cars, the report said – undermining the commitment to tackle carbon emissions.

But the money TfL gives to London boroughs for road upgrades would also be cut, which could have a big impact on road surface quality.

Khan said: “Transport for London is dealing with an unprecedented financial crisis caused by the pandemic. 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.

“I support greater transport investment in regions across the country, but levelling up Britain must not come at the expense of levelling down London. There can no London recovery without a properly funded public transport network in the capital, and there can be no national recovery without a London recovery. Our city contributes £36.1bn net to the Treasury each year. TfL contracts contribute around £7bn to the UK economy, and its supply chain supports 43,000 jobs around the country, which could be at risk.

“If the Government fails to work with us to protect London’s transport network, the capital and the whole country will pay the price for decades to come.

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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