Sadiq Khan’s Plan to Screw Drivers Even More

Two days ago (on 17/01/2022) I pointed out on this blog that the Mayor’s Budget document spelled out that road pricing in London was definitely anticipated. His budgets for future years depend on it.

It became clearer what he is planning yesterday when both the BBC and London Evening Standard provided more details of the Mayor’s plan – see links below.

His proposals include a small daily charge on everyone who drives in London – perhaps £2. He claims this is required based on a report commissioned by City Hall that found that a 27% reduction in London’s car traffic was required by 2030 to meet net-zero ambitions. He has the powers to introduce this but he is also considering a London entry charge for anyone who drives in from outside. A boundary charge (of perhaps £3.5 per day) would require Government consent when they don’t currently favour it.

Longer term, by the end of the decade, he would like to introduce a pay- per-mile system although the technology to do that is not yet available.

In the meantime it looks very likely that he will extend the ULEZ to the whole of London.

The Mayor has said “I have got to make sure there is a disincentive to drive your car, particularly if it is petrol or diesel, when there are alternatives, like public transport”. Yes he would like to force everyone to use public transport which of course he has a financial incentive to advocate. It’s yet another reason to take TfL out of the control of the Mayor.

The justification for these measures is to tackle air pollution and defeat climate change. It certainly won’t do the latter and there is a very good debunking of the claims of death from air pollution on the web site Not a Lot of People Know That – see link below.

Improving air quality is certainly something the Freedom for Drivers Foundation supports but there needs to be a clear cost/benefit and the measures our national Government has been taking have been by far the most effective to reduce air pollution. London’s measures introduced by Sadiq Khan have been enormously financially damaging with very little benefit. He postures about saving the world while spending your money ineffectively.

BBC Report: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60030127

Evening Standard Report: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-clean-air-charge-petrol-diesel-cars-ulez-expansion-london-b977223.html?

Deaths from Air Pollution: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/claims-of-40000-deaths-from-air-pollution-debunked-by-death-statistics/

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan’s Budget for London – Mayor Cuts Bus Services but Plans for Road User Charging

Sadiq Khan has published his proposed Mayor’s Budget for 2022-23 which covers support for Transport for London and other services in the capital.

His foreword says this: “At the time of writing, London is in the grip of a serious crisis. Our city has more COVID-19 infections than any other UK region, we are seeing an explosive and alarming rise in the number of Omicron cases, and our NHS and other public services are being placed under immense strain because of staff absences caused by sickness and the need for key workers to self-isolate. The government is also still refusing to properly fund London’s public services, particularly Transport for London, the Met police and the London Fire Brigade. It’s against this extremely challenging backdrop that I’m having to take a series of tough decisions to ensure that the progress we have made towards building a fairer, greener, safer and more prosperous London is built upon, rather than put at risk. The pandemic is the only reason TfL is facing a financial crisis”.

The last sentence is a lie and he yet again blames the Government for his own financial mismanagement over the past several years that meant that TfL had no financial resilience to meet the unexpected impact of the Covid epidemic.

The Mayor goes on to say “However, as a condition for the emergency short-term funding, the government is forcing us to raise additional revenue in London through measures, like council tax, that will unfairly punish Londoners for the government making our transport network so dependent on fares income”.

Why should not Londoners pay for the transport network they use? Either in fares or council tax (preferably the former)? Basically he is begging the Government to fund TfL rather than getting Londoners to pay while TfL continues to run uneconomic services instead of adapting its business to meet the new market conditions.

Sadiq Khan’s foreword is a classic example of him blaming the Government for his problems. We need less politicking and more constructive and practical steps to get TfL back on an even keel.

I’ll pick out just a few interesting points from the budget document:

  • The budgets anticipate a reduction in bus services of 18% by 2024-25.
  • Road pricing is definitely anticipated. It says on page 56: “In addition, further to the requirements of the 1 June 2021 funding agreement, the budget assumes a widening of road user charging schemes in later years to deliver the Mayor’s transport policies, subject to a full impact assessment, consultation as appropriate, and decision-making processes. The implementation costs have not at this stage been included as discussions are still ongoing”.
  • The Mayor talks about cost reductions in TfL but in reality the total operating expenditure rises from the expected £6.8 billion in 2021-22 to £7.5 billion next year.
  • The deficit between operating income and expenditure in TfL remains high at £1.35 billion in 2022-23 and is still £638 million in the following year. That ignores the capital expenditure and other items making the total “financing requirement” of £2.1 billion for next year. See page 95 of the budget document for the breakdown. Clearly the Mayor is expecting the Government to come up with the cash to finance these deficits which is surely unreasonable.
  • Expected income next year from the Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ schemes is £754 million which just shows how much money is being taken out of the London economy and from the pockets of Londoners to support the Mayor’s grandiose plans. This is a charge on Londoners for which there is no countervailing financial benefit.
  • The proposed adjusted basic amount of council tax is £396 for a Band D property (an increase of £32 over 2021-22). Yet again the Mayor is increasing his council tax precept at more than inflation when the general population is facing major cost of living increases from food and energy bills. Normally such a large increase would require a public referendum (see pages 109/110) but the Mayor is apparently asking the Government to waive that requirement.

Summary and comment: This is a typical socialist “spend, spend, spend” budget where instead of cutting the cloth to what he can afford the Mayor wants to continue spending regardless of economic and market conditions. The budget should be reconsidered and brought more into line with reality.

Please make sure you submit your own comments on the budget by sending an email to GLAbudget@london.gov.uk (but it needs to get there by the 18th January so it’s URGENT).

Mayor’s Budget: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/mayors_consultation_budget.pdf

Roger Lawson

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Making London Transport Sustainable

The battle over funding for London’s Transport goes on.  At the time of writing the government has granted a paltry 7-day extension of funds to TfL while demanding Mayor Sadiq Khan comes up with alternative proposals for how he will generate an extra £500m – £1bn a year to fund his apparently unsustainable transport system.  This while at the same time the Government is encouraging people to work from home again, significantly reducing public transport usage once more. In granting this 7-day extension it’s interesting to note the plans proposed by Khan, which the government rightly rejected.  These were:

•         A return of VED paid by London car owners to TfL

•         A Greater London Boundary Charge, charging motorists who come from outside London into it £3.50 a day.

•         A levy on deliveries made for online purchases, targeting delivery drivers.

Other ideas still on the table include raising the Congestion Charge and ULEZ tax rates.  The latter would be after the recently expanded zone failed to raise the income anticipated. Khan may speak of how it has reduced the number of polluting vehicles, but you do not introduce a new tax without planning on it raising substantially more revenue in the future.

What do all the above have in common? They are all targeting private motor vehicles – the car and delivery vans. Khan’s message is crystal clear: he wants to raise money from drivers rather than tackle the basic problem that public transport users in London do not pay for the cost of the services that are provided. It’s unsustainable.

Fundamental reform is needed to make transport in London more sustainable. Only then will Sadiq Khan need to stop asking the Government for more bail-outs.

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Spend, Spend, Spend – Andy Byford’s Solution to TfL’s Financial Problems

An article in the Financial Times this week (17/9/2021) spelled out how the London Transport Commissioner is looking to solve the financial problems of Transport for London (TfL). Andy Byford who heads TfL called on the Government to provide £17 Billion of funding over the next decade.

TfL has certainly been badly affected by the pandemic with a big reduction in income as people have avoided travelling on the Underground and on buses. They have already had several temporary bail-outs to keep operations running although the Government imposed a number of conditions on their financial support. Usage of buses and the tube is increasing but it may be a long time, if never, before it returns to the same levels as seen before the pandemic as working from home (WFH) or hybrid office use has become adopted.

Mr Byford hopes to achieve financial stability by the financial quarter ending in March 2022. But that is a hope rather than a certainty. That will not include funding for replacing diesel buses by electric ones, the purchase of trains for underground lines nor any major new projects. It is also dependent on Crossrail opening on the long-delayed schedule and providing extra income. Mr Byford suggests that without extra “investment” (i.e. spending money he does not have), London’s transport network could enter a doomsday scenario of managed decline.

In other words, instead of using profits from existing operations to maintain and improve the network, he wants the Government to donate large sums of money out of our taxes to help him implement grandiose plans. This is surely no way to run a business – and make no mistake TfL is a business not just a public service.

Mr Byford seems to want to follow the typical socialist mantra of spend, spend, spend to solve his financial problems. Surely there is a better way.

FT Article:  https://www.ft.com/content/60e63984-dad6-4fed-ae9c-9c0888b74bb6

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Transport Commissioner and Mayor’s Special Pleading

The Evening Standard has published an article by London’s Transport Commissioner, Andy Byford (see Reference 1). In it he welcomes the £1 billion in Government funding to keep Transport for London running for another few months.

But like Sadiq Khan’s press release over the deal (see Reference 2), it complains about the lack of a “long-term settlement”. The Mayor even called it “yet another sticking plaster”. They do not seem to understand that the basic problem is that they are looking for taxpayers (i.e. you and me as represented by the Government) to fund an uneconomic business called Transport for London.

Andy Byford does spell out where some of the money will go which includes this: “And it means we can continue with innovative and creative schemes to decarbonise transport by 2030 and to clean-up London’s air through the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, further electrifying the bus fleet, promoting active travel — including more Santander cycles — and improving road safety”. In other words, they are spending taxpayers’ money to expand the ULEZ (a very ineffective scheme on a cost/benefit analysis) and provide more cycles. Clearly the approach seems to be to spend their way out of trouble in the socialist paradise of London.  

The Mayor says that TfL only needs emergency funding from the Government because the Covid epidemic cut fare income by 90%. That might have been true in the short term and over a few weeks but the details do not seem to have been disclosed. Usage of public transport is fast recovering so this may be only a temporary problem and the financial problems of TfL are a long-standing failure to run a prudent budget that takes into account not just operating costs but capital expenditure and financing costs in addition.

Regrettably the Mayor is acting like the animal that bites the hand that feeds it with his attacks on the Government.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Evening Standard article: https://tinyurl.com/2fc4vtut

Reference 2: Mayor of London Press Release: https://tinyurl.com/82uwfr38

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

Avoiding Road Taxes

With Sadiq Khan being re-elected many Londoners are going to be faced with an expanded ULEZ scheme in October. That means £12.50 per day for every day you use non-compliant vehicles within the North/South Circular. Perhaps you think that your vehicle will be compliant because it’s relatively new, but that is not the case for diesel cars. Petrol cars sold after 2005 are generally compliant but diesel cars that are not Euro-6 standard (registered since September 2015 mostly) are not.

You can check the taxes you pay in Congestion Charges and ULEZ charges in London for your current vehicle here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

Personally I made the mistake of buying a diesel car in 2013 after the Government chose to exhort people to purchase them to cut CO2 emissions and car manufacturers such as Jaguar dropped most of their petrol models. With me doing relatively low mileage in recent years, and hardly any in the last year while we have been in lock-down, my vehicle would have lasted several more years. This retrospective legislation to penalise vehicles that were compliant with all emissions regulations when purchased is somewhat annoying to say the least.

If you live inside the North/South Circular you will have a difficult choice to make come October. Either buy a new compliant vehicle or trade-in for a second-hand one that is. You might consider an electric or hybrid vehicle for example.

But there are some other options. I happened to read an article published by Motoring Research recently on “What is a historic vehicle?” which intrigued me. Historic vehicles are those more than 40 years old. Such vehicles (except those used for commercial purposes) are exempt from the ULEZ and are also exempt from road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty).

In theory you could buy a restored classic car for a reasonable price and save a lot in tax. But you need to pick the vehicle carefully. Most “popular” cars more than 40 years old are likely to be full of rust and have very high mileages so they won’t be good buys. Classic cars such as E-Type Jaguars might be attractive but are now very expensive if well preserved. But there are other Jaguar models such as early XJs or 2.4 models that would be more practical. Parts would be readily available but maintenance costs might be high.

Having run some ancient and decrepit vehicles when I was younger, I am not particularly recommending this approach unless you are keen on classic cars and don’t need to use a vehicle every day.

It’s always amusing to watch the TV programme Bangers and Cash available on some channels. It’s very clear that the cost of restoring a beat-up vehicle is never recouped so buy a fully restored vehicle if you want a classic. And be careful on your choice. Vehicles that were unreliable and expensive to maintain when new will not have changed. While some models such as Jaguar E-Types are way too expensive for the average person.  

But there is another option which is to move to a ULEZ compliant vehicle that is not brand new. The car I owned before my current one was a Jaguar XJ8 registered in 2006 with petrol V8 engine and that is ULEZ compliant. See photograph above. This had an aluminium body so shouldn’t rust and you can pick a good one up for £12,000. This was a superb and spacious vehicle with all mod-cons. Perhaps I should simply go back in time and buy another? Or one can buy a low mileage Bentley Continental of a similar age for £25,000.  

If you want to go for something smaller and cheaper, look at Japanese cars which are generally reliable and Japan retained the love of petrol versus diesel. How about a one-owner Lexus GS 450H (a hybrid power train) with 66,000 miles on the clock for £7,500 advertised on AutoTrader if you want a luxury vehicle with a gesture to environmental soundness?

There are certainly some interesting and good quality vehicles that would enable you to avoid paying Sadiq Khan’s tax every day – at least for the present.  

Remember the ULEZ tax is about raising money for the Mayor’s empire, not about improving air quality where it will have minimal impact – see this page for the evidence: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor Spells Out His Policies in the Times

Sadiq Khan has reiterated his policies on cars and air pollution in an article in the Times. He repeated his call for drivers to give up their cars and said: “Where you can give up using cars, I would encourage that. We can avoid a health crisis that is around air quality and obesity but [it] will also mean that those who do need to use the roads for good reason, be that you are a black-cab driver, electrician, plumber, blue-light services, delivery driver and so forth, are not stuck in traffic and frustrated about productivity when others who have alternatives aren’t using them.”

He repeats his gross exaggeration of the dangers of air pollution to the health of the public as a justification for the expansion of the ULEZ and the proposed charge for entering London from outside. In reality, the expansion of the ULEZ will have minimal impact on air pollution and in just a few years’ time the benefit will have completely disappeared. But there will be massive costs imposed on London’s vehicle owners. See this previous blog post for the data: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/04/15/ulez-the-latest-information-including-poor-financial-outcome/

However you look at it, it’s about raising taxes not improving the health of Londoners.

Times Article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/c71af668-a4ff-11eb-be8f-c06519de93dd?shareToken=88c7f827c16cd944a33cd315efb17e2d

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Turning London into a Ghetto

We have covered the disastrous mismanagement of the finances of Transport for London (TfL) in several previous articles. That came home to roost when the coronavirus epidemic reduced people’s inclination to use public transport thus reducing TfL’s income and resulting in the need for Government bail-outs.

The latest wheeze by Mayor Sadiq Khan to fix his financial difficulties is the proposal to charge anyone who drives into London from outside a tax of £3.50 per day (or £5.50 for more polluting vehicles). The whole of the Greater London Authority (GLA) area which is that within the M25 would be subject to the “charge” (i.e. tax) so yet again we have the situation that those who have to pay the tax are not represented because they have no say in who gets elected as Mayor of London. This is totally undemocratic.

There are estimated to be 1.3 million journeys into London from outside each week which are mainly into the outer suburbs. But it would seem the Mayor is keen to turn London into a ghetto of cyclists and public transport users. Even with the new tax which might raise £250 million per year, it won’t solve the financial difficulties of TfL. It’s still likely to need another bailout from the Government of another £3 billion.

There was an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph last week that reported that the UK population is “in the biggest fall since the Second World War”. The over-population of our crowded island, particularly in London and the South-East, has been one of my major concerns for some years. This has led to congested transport systems and a major shortage of homes.

The population reduction is not because of deaths from Covid-19 which have only risen slightly above the normal levels but an “unprecedented exodus of foreign-born workers” resulting in a fall of 1.3 million in 2020. The largest fall was in London where it may have been 700,000. The article also suggests there is likely to be a “baby bust” as couples delay starting a family which might push the birth rate to its lowest on record according to estimates from PWC.

Such a reduction in the population of London will have negative consequences for the economy in general and particularly for the finances of TfL so the proposals for more taxes and Government bail-outs may only be a short-term fix to TfL’s financial difficulties. They still have not faced up to the issue that the public transport network needs to be downsized to meet the demand.

The proposed Greater London “boundary charge” will be the subject of a feasibility study and later public consultation before it can go ahead. It will clearly require permission from central Government. You can read more about this and other proposals to fund TfL in the “Financial Sustainability Plan” – see http://content.tfl.gov.uk/financial-sustainability-plan-11-january-2021.pdf

Although some reductions in bus services are proposed to save money, TfL are also proposing to go into commercial property development so as to generate more income. It was of course the speculation in commercial property development that got the London Borough of Croydon into such major financial difficulty that they have effectively become insolvent. Perhaps this is not such a wise idea after all?   

An interesting chart from the Plan is this one:

It shows how underground train usage has been reduced to a small fraction of former levels by the pandemic and bus usage is not much better. Traffic levels are also below normal and cycling rose during the summer but has since fallen back to previous levels. There is no cycling revolution in London as some people claim.

The Plan also suggests that with the demand for active travel growing “to capitalise on enthusiasm during lockdown we should invest in reallocating road space from private cars in a way that allows for mixed use” (see page 38). So it looks like we see even more money wasted on cycle lanes and worse gridlock in London.

The Plan also proposes Road User Charging as a way to finance the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (see page 94). In other words, this is likely to be another way to raise taxes on Londoners.  

In total, these proposals will hasten the destruction of London’s economy and encourage even more people to leave London to live elsewhere. Certainly anyone reading the Plan will get the urge to do so.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Tax Rises from the Mayor of London

I just received a letter from Shaun Bailey. No this is not a personal Xmas card from the Conservative Party candidate for Mayor because I think everyone in the street received a copy. It’s a note about the current Mayor’s proposals to raise the Council Tax Precept that all Londoners pay to fund his operations. This is some of what the note says:

IF YOU DO NOT TAKE ACTION, YOUR MAYORAL COUNCIL TAX WILL RISE BY 21.2%

The Mayor of London levies a tax called the Mayoral Precept. Every household in London pays this tax as part of their council tax bill.

This tax is bundled together with your local council tax. And the Mayor’s portion is set to rise by 21.2%.

To stop this tax rise, you must take action. Please visit www.stopkhanstaxhike.com

Sadiq Khan has already raised your mayoral council tax by 20.3% since 2016. But now he’s planning to raise it even further — in order to pay for his waste at TfL.

Over the last four years, he accumulated £9.56 billion in wasteful spending at Transport for London.

£159 million on free travel for friends of TfL staff. £828 million on pension overpayments. £5.25 billion on Crossrail delays.

Now TfL is on its second bailout. And in the second bailout’s settlement letter, Sadiq Khan revealed that he’s planning to pass the cost on to Londoners with a rise in council tax.

<END>

That’s not the only way the Mayor is planning to raise taxes. He is proposing to raise as much as £500 million every year by charging anyone who drives into Greater London from outside the metropolis. He has already asked Transport for London (TfL) to look into such a plan which might involve a daily fee of £3.50 – but that could soon be raised once the tax is in place and cameras installed to pick it up.

Mr Khan argues that public transport users subsidise road maintenance in the capital as some of that expenditure comes from public transport fares. But bus users should certainly contribute to road maintenance surely?

In addition he is ignoring the fact that technically most of London’s roads are maintained by local boroughs. In fact he is simplifying the issues of where the money comes from because much of it comes from central Government.

The impact on outer London boroughs, and those who live in the wider South-East, of such a tax could be devastating. There are three groups of people who would be badly affected: 1) Those who drive into London for employment (not many do so to central London, but those who work in the outer London boroughs often do so); 2) those who drive into outer London Tube or Rail stations to park as part of their commute (“rail heading” as it is called); and 3) those who drive into outer London “town” centres such as Orpington and Bromley for shopping. Many service providers to businesses in London also visit from outside such as plumbers, accountants, etc.

Perhaps it is worth pointing out that none of these people will get a vote to decide who is Mayor of London. In effect it is taxation without representation, a good enough cause to start a revolution.

It really is time that central Government takes over the government of London and the management of its finances as Sadiq Khan has made a complete hash of it. Allowing him to tax those who live outside London but just want to visit it will cause a mass exodus of businesses and people from London. It will also be the final nail in the coffin of many High Street retail businesses in London.

The Mayor of London has already introduced the LEZ, ULEZ and central Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) which have been primarily driven by the Mayor’s desire to build an empire based on raising taxes from Londoners rather than reducing congestion or air pollution. The latest proposals are yet another feeble excuse for money grabbing.

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Sadiq Khan Bailed Out Again and Legal Action Over LTNs

A deal was done over the weekend to keep Transport for London (TfL) afloat – at least temporarily. The Mayor’s Press Release issued yesterday (see below) was headlined “Mayor sees off plan to extend C-Charge as deal reached on TfL funding” which is a typical bit of political point scoring from Sadiq Khan. There was of course an enormous amount of opposition to extending the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) to a wider area as so many people would have been affected. But the Mayor has had to concede to some changes to keep London’s public transport system functioning until next March.

Some of the details are:

£1.8 billion of Government grant and borrowing made available – but note the increase in borrowing when TfL already has too much debt.

Concessionary fares will remain for older and younger Londoners.

Public transport fares will only increase as previously agreed.

Transport for London to make £160m of savings this financial year, and City Hall will need to raise additional income to protect concessions for older and younger Londoners for future years – if the Mayor wants to continue these. But where is he going to make those savings or raise the additional income from? It does not say.

A modest increase in council tax is to be looked at and the temporary changes to the central London Congestion Charge that were introduced in June 2020 will remain, i.e. they are likely to become permanent.

As one commentator said, this looks like kicking the can down the road as it will not solve the basic imbalance between income and expenditure in TfL over the next 6 months so come next March some tougher decisions will need to be made. It is very unlikely that the impact of the Covid-10 epidemic will have disappeared by then.

Postscript: the full terms of the bail-out have now been published in the Government’s letter to Sadiq Khan. See https://tinyurl.com/yyyxnvnp . You can see why he might be furious over the outcome because it makes it clear that TfL will remain under Government scrutiny and the Mayor has to come up with a sensible and “sustainable” financial plan for it.

Legal Action Over LTNs

The Daily Telegraph has reported on the commencement of legal action against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Enfield which we covered in a previous blog post. See link below to full article. It refers to “Emergency Traffic Orders” when I think it is talking about Temporary or Experimental Traffic Orders introduced under the Emergency Procedures introduced in June because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Telegraph articles also refers to legal challenges being mounted in Croydon and Lambeth. The OneLambeth campaign are raising funds for the legal challenge – see https://www.gofundme.com/f/OneLambeth . Please support them.

It will be worthwhile to follow these legal cases and we hope to report more details in due course.

Just to show how strongly the residents of Crystal Palace (Croydon) feel about the road closures, see this YouTube video of a demonstration over the weekend:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMrQna7tFmM

Telegraph Article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/31/green-roads-council-becomes-first-taken-court-campaigners-say/

Emergency Traffic Order Procedures: https://tinyurl.com/ybns7rwx

Mayor of London Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-reaches-deal-on-tfl-funding

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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