London faces ‘total shutdown’ without funding, claims Mayor

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The ongoing saga of funding London’s bus, rail and Underground networks continues, with the Mayor warning that services could be reduced to the minimum if Government money is not forthcoming

Transport for London services could be reduced to a bare minimum level if the Government does not sign off a new funding deal within days, according to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, after the 3 August deadline for TfL to accept a £3.6 billion funding agreement passed. TfL said it was still awaiting a reply from ministers to its response after it expressed concerns that the conditions attached were too strict.

Speaking to news outlet MyLondon, the Mayor said: “It’s no secret that we’re talking about [a matter of] days in relation to TfL’s ability to carry on operating the services it’s providing, without the additional support from the Government.

“I’m not able to give a running commentary on the deal – it’s market sensitive. What’s important though is for TfL and Department for Transport officials to try and reach a resolution. I’m ready, willing and able to meet with Grant Shapps. I’ve been asking for weeks and months now. Grant Shapps has been unwilling to meet with me.”

On 9 August, it was reported at a TfL Board meeting that the network was considering having to implement a S114 order – which would mean cutting all non-essential services, which could effectively mean the entire Tube, bus and Overground network. Transport for London says it needs another £927m to keep services running until next April.

The Mayor added: “It’s a matter of public record that the Chief Financial Officer needs to make sure that TfL can pay its debts and balance its books. If he believes we can’t pay our outgoings, he would then advise a S114 route, by which we effectively say we can’t make ends meet, we’ve got to reduce services. The only services we’d be able to provide are the ferries. That would require serious cuts to services Londoners use on a daily basis, and the services tourists use as we try and get a recovery.

“Nobody wants S114. Once you start it, it’s like dominoes, you can’t stop it. It’s not a threat, it’s just a fact. I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to that. One of the things the CFO is concerned about is how long we can carry on without extra revenue support.

“It’s really important we reassure those who do business with TfL and communities that we’re OK. The reality is without this deal being finalised, it’s a matter of days before we haven’t got the certainties we need in relation to TfL being able to provide the services we currently provide.”

The Mayor went on to tell MyLondon that he remained hopeful, but was not sure the signs were hopeful. “There is a problem,” he said, “and it’s not a criticism, it’s just the reality. Ministers are on holiday, civil servants are on holiday, turning things around is a problem. We’re turning things around really quickly, TfL staff are working literally 16-hour days, seven days a week.”

Responding, a Department of Transport spokesperson told MyLondon: “Over the past two years, the Government has provided TfL with more than £5 billion worth of funding and ensured our capital’s transport system kept running throughout the pandemic. The latest deal we have offered would take this funding to over £6 billion, as well as supporting more than £3.6 billion worth of major projects – such as Tube upgrades and extensions and new active travel schemes to allow for less congestion and pollution.”

The Mayor of London said that TfL could have to start cutting services without additional support. RICHARD WALTER