There was a Transport for London (TfL) Board Meeting on the 9th of August to discuss negotiations with the Government on finance. Such meetings should be public but in fact almost all the meeting was closed to the public; even the Government representative who has a seat on the board was excluded.
But there is an interesting board paper that spells out the dire financial position of the organisation – see link below. In summary they need £900m in Government subsidies to stay afloat in the current financial year, i.e. to offset the shortfall in revenue from the pandemic.
The paper says this: “The 2022/23 TfL Budget is based on a ‘managed decline’ scenario. This involved significant service reductions, deteriorating asset condition and no new enhancement schemes. This not only would mean that we will fail to make progress on critical priorities such as safety, decarbonisation and air quality, but it would trap London’s transport network in a vicious circle of deteriorating services and declining demand. Avoiding managed decline is critical to supporting the London economic recovery, and therefore the national economic recovery, following the pandemic”.
In essence they want to continue spending instead of cutting their cloth to meet the new circumstances. They need £1.2 billion just to balance the budget in the current financial year and even more for “longer-term capital funding to avoid the managed decline scenario”.
Looking at TfL as a business (which is what it is) this is surely pure hogwash. Businesses that do not reduce their expenditure to match income end up going bust. As will TfL unless they change their approach.
It’s interesting to look at who is on the board of TfL. It’s full of academics, trade unionists and politicians, not business people. And it’s chaired by Sadiq Khan. This is one of the key problems. Until TfL is taken out of the control of the Mayor and the board is replaced by people with business experience of running transport organisations, nothing will change. They will continue to rely on Government (i.e. taxpayer) hand-outs rather than taking the tough decisions necessary.
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