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

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Andy Byford Speaks to the Standard

London Transport Commissioner Andy Byford recently gave an interview with the Evening Standard which is informative. He talks about the problem of re-establishing confidence in the underground network to help restore the finances of TfL, and the promotion of electric buses to cure air pollution problems – but that won’t happen for the whole bus fleet until 2030.

One interesting point the article makes is that Mr Byford is a non-driver. He does of course have responsibility for the road network in London as his remit includes Transport for London who control the roads. Is it not astonishing that we have a Transport Commissioner who has no personal experience of using the road network which is used to transport a very high proportion of people and goods in London?

This shows the innate prejudice against motorised road transport that has been introduced into London by politicians.

Reference 1: Evening Standard Article: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/tfl-boss-andy-byford-clash-ministers-plan-ditch-masks-tube-b943356.html

Reference 2: Andy Byford interview: https://www.londonrising.standard.co.uk/programme/andy-byford-in-conversation-with-emily-sheffield

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

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