Disabled people using a Freedom Pass in London will now retain free travel on public transport after uproar when the terms of a bailout where revealed.
There is however no word on children’s travel (currently said to temporary) and those over 60s who will lose peak time free travel.
Sadiq Khan stated these new rules were imposed by central Government and crucially has called on the Government to make the agreement fully public. So far they have not done so. He stated: “I am very happy for the Government to fully publish the full funding deal”. So far that has not happened.
While many have criticised Khan and TfL in recent days it appears to me pretty clear Government are calling the shots. When it comes to a bail out those lending the money hold the cards.
And there’s no city on earth that doesn’t need a bailout. No city can withstand a 90 per cent fall in revenue so suddenly while being obliged to provide services at a certain level. You can criticise plenty of TfL’s actions and spending recently but it’s a fraction of current losses. TfL could be run perfectly and it would never be enough to see them through what is now happening. We are talking £3.2 billion.
For example, even if you opposed the fare freeze which proponents say encouraged public transport usage to hold up and limit congestion as London’s population was rising by 100,000 a year, that totals at worst £650 million over four years.
That sum is overshadowed by Central Government cutting annual funding by £700 million a year to TfL in 2015. They then compounded that action by ensuring revenue from London drivers received by central government via Vehicle Excise Duty was prevented from being spent in London and instead allocated elsewhere across the country on roads.
And while the Government continues to talk of “levelling up” the rest of the country when it comes to public transport, what their actions have demonstrated is an apparent willingness in dragging London down towards poor standards seen in other cities rather than lift those cities to London standards.
Good services across cities in England doesn’t seem to me to be the real aim here. If it was, cities like Manchester wouldn’t be begging for minimal upgrades as trains face a 10 per cent cut. Upgrade plans for stations announced over six years ago by George Osborne have not progressed.
Sadly the standards seen in many European nations are not coming to England anytime soon. A country like Spain with excellent metros in Barcelona and Madrid (not to mention good systems beyond that across the nation) are a pipe dream. Cologne and Berlin in Germany? It’d be either/or here.
Meanwhile the north v south squabbles continue and in London some seem hoodwinked into exactly the government’s trap of withdrawing funding, pushing through cuts then letting local politicians take the flack. Same old, same old.
If anyone thinks central government will do a better job than TfL (flaws and all) then spend a year living in any other English city. You’ll see how abysmal many are for public transport users. And if London is heading down that road then the city’s position as a financial hub is not looking good.