The congestion charge is set to increase to £15 and operate seven days a week until 10pm after the Government bailed out TfL. Free travel for children is temporarily scrapped as is travel in the morning and evening rush hours to Freedom Pass holders.
As part of the deal to provide emergency funding to prevent imminent collapse as fair revenue hit the floor, central government have levied a number of conditions. The increase to 10pm is “temporary” and raises the question of whether a future candidate could promise to scale it back at elections in 2020.
These measures are likely enforced by central Government to help the conservative candidate in next years election. In recent days Shaun Bailey has highlighted TfL’s poor finances though continually failed to mention that George Osborne cut £700 million a year in funding which is now taking full effect.
Financing TfL has turned into petty political point scoring which now threatens the transport system of a major world city and source of wealth for the UK’s economy.
TfL were already one of very few cities across the world that had seen operating assistance from central government entirely cut . At the same time, all revenue from drivers in London via vehicle excise duty was sent to central Government to be spent across the country but not in London. It’s possible schemes like ULEZ were sped up to plug this gap.
Income from ULEZ and the congestion charge do not cover costs of maintaining roads, and so that meant tube users were subsiding drivers. There is nowhere else in the world where public transport users subsidise drivers.
Other measures that may be enforced as part of the bailout include ending free fares for certain groups and increasing fares above inflation. How this tallies with central Government’s aims to get people out of cars, limit congestion and encourage public transport in the mid to long term remains to be seen.
It would seem political games and hampering a Labour mayor are taking precedence over a general economic recovery after the current upheaval.
For an excellent look into the situation TfL found themselves in and how close they came to legally being obliged to make heavy cuts without a bailout, read this excellent article on London Reconnections.
There’s been a lot of stories in recent days across many tabloids about threats from Sadiq Khan on axing services without a bailout. The reality is TfL were close to collapse and by law would have to decimate services. For all the things wrong with TfL – and there are quite a few – no transport authority in the world can operate with income down 90 per cent. Thus they had to agree to any terms on the table when talking to government.