Leading London businesses have joined Transport for London in once again urging the government to enable the capital’s transport networks to remain fully functioning as negotiations over funding continue.
Following the extension of the most recent short-term funding support package until 17 December, lobby group London First says this “only makes sense” if the additional time is used to provide TfL with the money it needs to maintain services throughout the capital’s recovery and to give Sadiq Khan “the tools he needs to find new ways of funding the system”.
Announcing the continuation of discussions with the government TfL itself this morning stressed the link between the capital’s economy and the UK’s as a whole, saying “there is no recovery from the pandemic without a London recovery and there is no London recovery without a properly-funded transport network in the capital”.
Concern has also been expressed by Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson in parliament and MP for Richmond Park MP. She said she fears the extension represents a failure by the government to recognise the urgency of the situation, arguing like TfL that “without a fully funded transport network we cannot keep the capital moving and we cannot therefore hope to have a full nationwide economic recovery”.
The connections between investment in London’s transport and the vitality of the national economy have been highlighted too by Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association. Writing for On London, Caplan underlined the need for a TfL deal providing long-term certainty for a sector that provides over 700,000 jobs across the country, many of them dependent on orders from the capital it can rely on.
Last week, with just three days to go before the current deal’s original expiry date of 11 December, the TfL board heard that the government had refused to say how much money would be on offer or how long the next emergency support package would last for.
On the same day, minister for London and Sutton & Cheam MP Paul Scully, writing in the Evening Standard, said TfL’s loss of revenue through Covid will be made up for and pointed out that TfL will continue to benefit from retaining a larger sum in business rates since the government’s withdrawal of grants to support daily transport operation in a settlement reach when Boris Johnson was Mayor.
But Scully also warned that it is “too soon to make multi-billion pound bets” that “peak hour commuting to central London” will return to pre-pandemic levels”, suggesting that Johnson’s ministers and advisers are reluctant to commit to anything other than another short-term bailout. Previous support has come with numerous conditions attached.
Early figures for TfL, reported by BBC London’s Tom Edwards, show big drops in bus and London Underground passengers compared with last Monday, indicating that the government’s “Plan B” measures for inhibiting the spread of the newly dominant Omicron Covid mutation, which include advising people to work for home, are having an effect.
Anticipating this, London First stressed “those who have to go to their workplace will be as reliant as ever on the network and its safe operation” and urged national and London government to work together to “build public confidence” in public transport.
Renewed pleas to government for long-term TfL deal as ‘Plan B’ prompts fall in public transport use