With Teresa May finally forced from office after numerous aborted coups it now looks like the end of Chris Grayling and very possibly Chancellor Philip Hammond.
What impact will it have on transport in London? One of Grayling’s first tasks in his current role was to cancel previously agreed plans to devolve operation of Southeastern Metro services to Transport for London. Since then the DfT’s management of franchises has continued to, and let’s put this politely, seen some hiccups.
The current Southeastern franchise continues to see short-term extensions (a continual theme now for five years) preventing any sort of investment and long-term planning as borough’s like Greenwich are in the top 10 authorities for new homes out of over 350 across the UK.
Devolution would not come cheap and TfL are, to put it politely, skint.
If a new Transport Secretary is appointed the Department for Transport would still have to battle with funding cuts. George Osborne (now editing the Evening Standard which regularly complains about transport issues) cut the transport budget by 37% in 2015 (more than any other department) alongside stripping out £700 million annually from TfL’s budget under an agreement with then-Mayor Boris Johnson.
Since taking office Chancellor Philip Hammond did nothing to reverse cuts. Will a new chancellor increase funding for transport? Improved deficit numbers would seemingly allow scope for that. Targets made in 2010 have finally been made four years after George Osborne’s original 2015 target made nine years ago.
Yet increasing funds for London would no doubt see the rest of the country kick off given the paucity of funds spent in many areas. This north-south divide (well, not really given much of the south also has little investment) is a politician’s gift. Let regions squabble and divert from the overall transport budget being far too small. The Guardian seemed to indulge this shallow analysis recently.
Even with Brexit the latest migration figures show an increase of 258,000.
In an ideal world (hah!) the transport budget nationwide would expand. If we jump over the channel Paris has major transport improvements on the cards yet other cities have also seen numerous improvements and tram networks built or in planning. It’s not either/or for the capital and regions in France or in many European nations. Will that happen in England? Very unlikely.
And without new funds any TfL devolution will be tricky, yet any new franchise looks like offering little in the way of improvement as bidders pull out and launch legal action and the DfT seek high returns.
Years of stagnation ahead then with or without Brexit? It’s very possible, and it may offer one reason why the Tories struggle so badly in urban areas where many are reliant on public transport.
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