A meeting of Transport for London’s board yesterday painted a bleak picture for London’s transport as it revealed all future major projects are on hold – and discussions for funding beyond the end of this month with central Government are not underway.
The meeting – click here to view where it starts at the 45 minute mark – shows that discussions look set to go down to the wire once again. The last bailout run over beyond a deadline, with government considering forcing TfL to expand the congestion charge area to the north and south circular. There’s many political games at play in these discussions on all sides, and that move appeared to rebound on central Government who dropped the idea. The prospect of an imminent Mayoral election hangs heavy over each round of talks.
The meeting revealed 51 bus drivers have so far died due to covid – though TfL have permitted a church offering fake covid cures to advertise on London’s buses. Total transport staff to have died are 89.
The meeting made clear what has been obvious for a long time in that the Bakerloo Line extension is going nowhere anytime soon. There is no funding. It doesn’t appear to halting various large developments on the planned route. See various projects in Lewisham and the Old Kent Road covered on this site over the past month.
The threat of not finishing Crossrail was again raised, as £825 million of £1.1 billion to complete the project has been received. The party political ding-dongs continue for this project, despite the project being a joint DfT (under a Conservative Government) and TfL (under a Labour Mayor) project for a decade until TfL gained sole control under the terms of the first bailout in 2020. Problems came to light in 2017.
For those in east and south east London, Silvertown continues despite cuts to other projects. In large part it’s a PFI-type project, though that doesn’t mean TfL are not paying sizable amounts totalling around £200 million. So while there’s no DLR to Thamesmead/Abbey Wood, no London Overground to Thamesmead/Abbey Wood or Bakerloo Line extension heading into south east London, a road tunnel which TfL themselves state will increase queues across almost all Greenwich borough continues. Mayor Sadiq Khan manages to ignore this whenever questioned about the tunnel.
Staffing cuts have been made at TfL, as shown below:
A £4 million saving from staff reductions is though a drop in the ocean given fare reductions are in the billions. There’s also a danger that reducing front line staff sees an increase in fare evasion as barriers remain open, and safety decreases with a reduced staff presence putting off passengers at a time reassurance is needed. One welcoming comment in the meeting was an increase in passengers over the past couple of days though no numbers were forthcoming.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and cycle lanes have been a contentious measure of previous funding agreements – despite cross party support at certain levels given they were an explicit condition from Conservative Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. In London, Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey appears to not know – or pretend not to know – the terms of those agreements and what his colleague at the the Department for Transport has asked. We await to see what future measures are included in the next agreement.
One big area of disagreement is how to raise funds to assist TfL in future. London’s Mayor is asking for £500 million in Vehicle Excise Duty raised annually from London drivers to be retained in the city to plug funding gaps. If not, a £3.50 charge to drive into the city is proposed. Government show no sign of permitting funds raised in London from VED from being retained in the city.