Transport for London Quarterly Performance Report – Clearly a Financial Basket Case

Transport for London (TfL) have published their quarterly performance report. It covers the quarter to 11 December 2021 and gives some useful information on the slow recovery in passenger numbers from the pandemic lows.

In Q3 demand plateaued however and is still only 68% of pre-pandemic levels. But to really get a good picture of how TfL is a total financial basket case you only have to jump to the Appendix. That shows that the “Net Cost of Services” is £2,267 million (i.e. £2.3 billion of costs more than income) for the quarter. This deficit is only made up by £3.4 billion of “Grant income” no doubt mainly from central Government.

Indeed the Chief Financial Officer clearly thinks that he is doing a great job because he says “we are performing better than budget” while staff numbers have actually increased despite passenger numbers falling.

Somebody asked me recently how much London buses were subsidised. I did not know the immediate answer although the last time I looked at this it was an enormous figure. But this report gives you guidance on it. The Appendix reports that for the Operating Segment of “Buses, streets and other operations” there is a deficit of £754 million for the quarter and that probably includes the income from the Congestion and ULEZ charges.

It is clear that TfL are still relying on enormous Government bail-outs to stay afloat and that shows no signs of changing.

Roger Lawson

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London Bus Action Plan Published

Transport for London (TfL) have published the Mayor’s Bus Action Plan – see link below for the full document. This document promotes bus travel as an “active travel” mode. But what is “active” about sitting on a bus?

The plan is full of such sophistry. Consider the following statement in it: “Meanwhile, climate change is a real and present emergency, as demonstrated by recent flooding in London and across Europe, and increasing numbers of wildfires in Europe, the Middle East, north Africa, North America and Australia. This is why the Mayor of London has made clear his ambition for London to be a world leader in tackling the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency, and has brought forward the 2050 target for London to be a net zero carbon city to 2030”.

There is no evidence that recent storms and flooding are other than random events. Promoting the use of buses certainly won’t help when most of them are still diesel powered.

The big problems with London buses are well known. Bus journey times have slowed thus putting people off using them and the pandemic has contributed to lower usage. More cycle lanes have obstructed buses and diversion of traffic off minor roads in LTNs to major roads has increased congestion. Meanwhile the cost of bus journeys has increased.

In outer London few people want to wait in the rain for the next bus and take circuitous routes to destinations when they can jump in their own private car or call a taxi to do a door-to-door trip in a quicker time.

But the report does say that they can reduce carbon emissions “By accelerating the delivery of a zero-emission bus fleet to 2030”. Is that a commitment to actually deliver a zero emission bus fleet by 2030. No it’s not. It’s the typical weasel words of politicians.

The report says “In contrast, a modern bus service that provides an inclusive customer experience”. What does that mean? It does not explain.

It also says: “A well-connected bus network will enable car-free lifestyles by providing a high-quality, attractive mode of transport to connect new developments to shops, stations and other destinations”. But buses cannot provide for all the needs and trips that people take via car, particularly if you wish to travel outside London or other than in and out of the centre.

How do they propose to speed up bus journey times? By introducing road user charging that will deter other vehicles from using the roads you have paid for. And by putting in more bus lanes and bus plus cycle only streets.

There is one big omission from this report. Namely any consideration of the financial position of London buses. The fact they get massively subsidised out of taxation is not even mentioned. If bus users had to pay the real cost of their journeys they would choose another travel mode.

In summary this report contains some useful facts but it’s full of management speak and is way too long. It ignores the basic problem that buses can only meet a minority of the desires and needs of Londoners for transport.

Bus Action Plan: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/bus-action-plan.pdf

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Mayor Pleads, But Now Threatens

First Mayor Sadiq Khan pleads with the Government for more money to fund Transport for London in their financial crisis. But with the Government reluctant to concede without a clear picture on future budgets, now he has turned to threatening the public.

He has announced that he plans to increase his share of council tax by £20 per year to support TfL and phase out the over 60+ Oyster card. This will presumably not affect the over 65 Freedom Pass. Fares on the network are planned to increase by inflation plus one per cent next year which will be an over 5% increase.

In addition he plans to scrap Travelcards making the network paperless – contactless bank, credit cards or Oyster cards can be used instead if you have one. Also tube journeys on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow will be charged at a premium rate.

Comment: As usual the Mayor blames the Government for forcing him to make these changes which is primarily the result of his own financial mismanagement.

But these changes are not unreasonable. If Londoners wish to have their public transport subsidised then it is not unfair to put it on Council Tax rather than introduce new taxes such as the ULEZ. The latter imposes charges on people who may not use public transport. Increasing charges to everyone in London as most will use public transport to some extent is fairer and scrapping the 60+ Oyster Card is not unreasonable. The 60+ card was never justified but was just a bribe to win electoral favour when most people could afford to pay the normal fares.

Increasing fares by inflation and more also makes sense as clearly at present fares paid do not cover the cost of running the TfL network.

But we still do not have a clear picture of how the Mayor is going to make TfL financially sustainable.

Roger Lawson

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How to Reform London’s Transport

Following on from my previous blog post about the financial crisis faced by Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor (see link below) I have given some thought to how the problems might be resolved.

The solution from Sadiq Khan and London’s Transport Commissioner is to ask the Government for more money. Not just some millions of pounds in immediate bail-outs but billions in the next few years.  There is no doubting the dire financial situation that TfL has got itself into partly because of the Covid epidemic which has reduced income substantially. But it was slow in responding to that and had not been managing its financial resources properly for years.

The big problem is that TfL has been run to pander to its political master whose key focus is to please the population of London so they can get re-elected when the time comes. But TfL is not just a useful transport service to serve the growing population of London but is in essence a business. It should be run like a business and if it is not it will continue to rack up losses and need repeated bail-outs.

The rot set in when the Mayor of London was given responsibility for TfL (and he chairs the Board of TfL), particularly when TfL took over responsibility for all underground, bus and main roads in the capital. From Ken Livingstone onwards, decisions have been made to please the electorate rather than ensure that TfL ran on a commercial basis. Ken expanded the bus network enormously which resulted in subsidies of over £1billion per year. Buses ran more frequently on routes that were often under-used but only now is the network being reduced.

Concessionary fares such as the Freedom Pass were expanded – again a very popular policy but one which imposed costs on the transport operators even if local councils covered some of the costs.

Ken installed a Congestion Charge system (in essence a tax) while promising it would solve traffic congestion which it never did and now we have the ULEZ tax which it was claimed would solve London’s air pollution problems, but which it has not – see Reference 2.

Sadiq Khan froze public transport fares for 5 years until March 2021. This no doubt helped him to get elected. But this was a political decision not a sensible financial one. He gambled on revenues from Crossrail filling the budget gap that was created but that project was over budget and severely delayed. When the Covid epidemic hit there was no margin of safety left to absorb the reduction in income that comes from bus and tube fares.

Instead of cutting services to meet the reduced demand level and hence save costs, services were maintained at a high level for political reasons and to avoid conflicts with trade unions. That’s not how any commercial business would have tackled the problem.

TfL is a commercial business where less than half its income comes from fares paid by willing customers. Much of it comes from grants and other subsidies, often indirectly from taxpayers. That is the core of the problem which no politician, whatever the hue of the Major of London, is going to tackle.

The solution to many of these problems is to remove TfL from elected political control and give it a clear mandate to be run solely on a commercial basis. A commission, independent from the Mayor of London, should be established with very specific terms of reference which should be binding on a new London Transport Commissioner. Such a commission should report to a Government minister but be independent in terms of policy making and executive decisions, i.e. the Government and any Mayor of London should only have a consultative role.

The remaining issue is whether roads and public transport should be combined under the same Transport Commissioner with roads being financed and maintained to some extent from public transport fares. Although the Mayor currently obtains some income from the Congestion and ULEZ charges, he argues that he should receive a share of national taxes used to finance road development and maintenance. That would only make sense if it was removed from political control in London.

But there is a built-in basis for irrational decisions if the London Transport Commissioner is responsible for multiple transport modes – underground, surface rail, London buses, taxis/PHVs and private vehicles (cars, LGVs and HGVs). Each of these should be made standalone businesses so that no one role subsidises the other. They should be made independent profit and cost centres. London Underground should not subsidise London Buses and vice versa. Road vehicles including buses should be covering the maintenance costs of the road network (including that for bridges, flyovers and tunnels) in London. If there is any surplus in any one sector it should be used to expand the relevant network and improve services, not be used to subsidise other loss-making activities.

The claim for a single transport body such as TfL was that it would enable the construction of an integrated transport system but apart from a common fare payment system there is little real integration.

The above is a manifesto to reform London transport so that it meets the needs of consumers of its services on a viable economic basis in the future. No other solution can do that.

There are of course other possible escapes from TfL’s financial problems. It has assets it could sell off. Perhaps someone would like to buy the London Underground?  But that will never happen while it is subject to political interference. Or it could borrow more money but that would not solve the basic financial problem. When expenditure exceeds income in your household budget, the last thing you should do is to increase your mortgage or raise the limit on your credit cards.

As it stands, the Mayor’s only solution seems to be to ask his fairy godmother (the Government) to come up with oodles of more cash. The Government should ignore the Mayor’s wailing and threats and get down to imposing substantial reform along the lines I suggest.

Roger Lawson

Ref 1. Transport Crisis in London blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/19/transport-crisis-in-london/ 

Ref 2. ULEZ Had Minimal Impact blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/

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Transport Crisis in London

Both Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Andy Byford, London Transport Commissioner, have warned that unless they get more money from the Government then there are going to be savage cuts in public transport and on major infrastructure projects. The latter might include the required repairs to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the A40 Westway and A12 Gallows Corner flyover leading to their closure.

Some 100 bus routes face the axe and frequencies may be cut on 200 other routes. Other proposals are no more electric buses, no more step-free stations, no more “Healthy Streets” cycling and walking schemes and no more 20mph zones or safer junctions.

Now some readers might welcome some of those things and clearly the Mayor is trying to scare the Government into providing more funding within weeks. But some of those suggestions like closure of the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Westway would be disastrous for the functioning of the road network in both east and west London.

How did TfL get themselves into such a mess? It all stems from the policies adopted by Ken Livingstone which was for massive subsidies to buses and commitments for large expenditure on Crossrail and other underground projects. The bus network has certainly been greatly expanded but at a cost that was never justified and Crossrail has been a financial disaster. Over budget, over schedule, and never justified on a cost/benefit basis. The Mayor was relying on income from it to cover TfL’s future budgets which it never has.

Boris Johnson never tackled the problems created by Livingstone when he was Mayor while Sadiq Khan has actually made matters worse by spending enormous amounts of money on cycle lanes, LTNs, and other schemes that have damaged the road network. He has also encouraged the growth in the population of London while the infrastructure never kept up with it despite massive central Government funding.

A report in the Express shows that £515 more per person was spent on transport schemes in London than on the North of England. A new report from the IPPR North think tank has published an independent analysis of transport spending over the past decade. Between 2009/10-2019/20, the North received just £349 per person in transport spending. In comparison, the UK as a whole received £430 per person, while London received a staggering £864 per person. Where did it all go one might ask? On pointless and generally uneconomic schemes not justified by any cost/benefit analysis is the answer.

The daft transport schemes such as the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ have actually encouraged people to move out of London and the cuts to public transport that are proposed will expedite that trend. With falling income from bus and tube fares already caused by the pandemic, the outlook is certainly bleak. But failing to maintain the infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and flyovers while the Major prefers to spend money on other things is surely a sign of gross incompetence.

London needs a new transport plan where expenditure is matched to income and needless subsidies removed. In other words, people should pay the cost of the trips they take on public transport and free riders should be stopped. But will a socialist Mayor ever take such steps? I doubt it. So London is likely to go into further decline and more people will move out.

But London is at the heart of the UK economy so there is some justification for central Government stepping in once again to reform London’s governance. We need less populism (which generally means hand-outs to win votes) and more financial acumen in the leadership. Certainly the current arrangement where you have a virtual dictator in the role of Mayor and a toothless London Assembly is not working.

The key to improving the London transport network is not to have it all (both public and private transport) under the control of one body (TfL) which leads to lack of competition and perverse incentives. For example, encouraging cycling to relieve pressure on public transport while causing more road traffic congestion and introducing schemes such as the ULEZ to help subsidise public transport while increasing the cost of private transport.

Perhaps we need a new Dr Beeching to put the London transport network back into a cost-effective structure as he did for British Rail. But at least the Government seems to have taken some rational decisions by cancelling the eastern link of HS2 to Leeds. Just like Crossrail in London, HS2 was never justified in terms of benefits achievable and the money would have been better spent on smaller projects. But politicians love grandiose schemes. Reality seems to be finally sinking in on the national scene even if not yet in London.

Roger Lawson

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ULEZ Expansion – It’s Mainly About Raising Taxes

From today (25/10/2021) the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanded to cover everywhere within the North/South Circular. If you drive into it and your car or van is not compliant it will cost you £12.50 per day.

Many people are going to get a big shock because a high proportion of people affected do not seem to be aware of the charges they will suffer – as many as a third of drivers in London and the South-East who will be affected are not aware of the change – see the “This is Money” article link below.

Particularly badly affected are those who bought diesel vehicles a few years ago after encouragement by the Government and will now have to buy a newer vehicle or pay the charge.

We have consistently argued against this unjust imposition of more taxes when the benefit in terms of improved air quality will be both small and of limited duration. See our web site page here for more details: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

You can see the real motivation for expanding the ULEZ when you read that it could bring in an extra £723 million per year for TfL. With the Mayor and TfL suffering from a major budget crisis you can understand why the Mayor is trying to justify this scheme on health grounds. But the facts do not support it.

To check whether your vehicle is compliant, go here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

This Money Article: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-10112743/ULEZ-extension-Three-five-drivers-London-unaware-changes.html

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New TfL Consultation Hub

Transport for London (TfL) have launched a new “Consultation Hub” where you can give feedback on new projects in London – see https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/ . You can also register to receive notifications of new consultation events.

This is not just about consulting on future projects but also submitting comments on live ones – such as the trial of E-Scooters that is currently running.

The new consultation “hub” will replace the existing consultation web site (see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/ ) which contains consultations on Streetspace schemes, bus lanes and other matters at present.

Is this a big improvement or is there any reason for the change? It’s not obvious how this change will help and moving and renaming a web site is never a good idea.

Readers are advised to register with the new site so as to be sure of being informed on new consultations.

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The Mayor of London’s Agenda and New York’s Congestion Charge

Our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a tweet that spells out his priorities. This is what he said:

Okay—here’s the plan:

🔨 Create + protect jobs
💰 Help businesses grow
🌳 Tackle the climate crisis
🏠 Build new homes
🚓 Invest in policing
🎬 Create opportunities for young people
🏆 Celebrate diversity
💪🏽 Root out inequality
⚽ Deliver an amazing Euro2020

<END>

These are all fine words, but rather like the Government’s policies as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, rather short on detail. It also contains phrases like “celebrate diversity” that are not just meaningless, but do not lead to specific actions or budget allocations. Many people would argue that there is too much diversity in London and that leads to social incoherence, and why should the Mayor be spending time or money on celebrating it anyway? We all know that the population of London is now very diverse and we have all come to accept that. So what is there to celebrate?

One big issue is certainly the comment that he plans to “Tackle the Climate Crisis”. Is there one? If you look at many London boroughs who have introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhoods they have justified this on the basis of tackling climate change. They argue that it is important to cut emissions from vehicles when doing so will have minimal impact on the climate. Climate may be influenced by man-made emissions (although some dispute that) but cutting vehicle emissions in London will have a negligible influence. Emissions in London come from many different sources and directly relate to the population of London and their requirements for buildings, heating and transport. The Mayor’s policies imply more businesses, more buildings to accommodate them, more homes for the workers and more infrastructure to support them so this is all contradictory.

Only if the Mayor adopted a policy of reducing the population of London while providing more infrastructure – particularly in terms of transport – would the environment be improved.

New York, New York

It’s interesting to look at another major city which has similar transport problems – a heavily congested road network and a public transport system in deficit. Just like the impact of the Covid epidemic on the budgets of Transport for London, New York is facing a major problem. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget (which covers the subway and some bus services and is equivalent to TfL in London) is projecting a deficit of $16 billion for the period 2020 to 2024, even after major cuts in services.

New York is planning to introduce congestion charging to cut traffic and of course generate some income for the MTA – as much as $15 billion by charging $10 to $15 dollars per day for those entering Manhattan. But the adjacent state of New Jersey, from which many people commute into New York City, is threatening retaliation. Senator Laguna and Assemblyman Tully are developing legislation that would impose tolls on non-residents driving between New Jersey and New York. Mr Tully said “We should not be used to fund the MTA”.

This is equivalent to Essex or Kent imposing a tax on Londoners who drive into their counties if Sadiq Khan imposed a toll on those who drive into London from outside the M25 – as he is proposing. This is surely a very good response to such a threat!

County Councils that border the M25 should surely be asking the Government for such legislation, or asking the Government to stop this taxation without representation.

Roger Lawson

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Congestion Charge Extension – Who Is Telling the Truth?

Readers are probably aware of the financial difficulties of Transport for London (TfL) and hence Sadiq Khan. The fall in income has been devastating as people have avoided public transport because of the epidemic while TFL have continued to run the same frequency of services on buses and the underground. As these services are the main sources of income to TfL while costs have remained unchanged, the result has been a ballooning operational deficit. The Mayor is now asking for billions of pounds to keep TfL afloat.

He alleges that the Conservative Government is forcing him to extend the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) as a condition for supplying more money while the Government says that is only one of several “proposals” that they are asking the Mayor to consider to put the finances back in a stable position.

The Prime Minister alleged in the Commons that TfL had been put into a state of “bankruptcy” which was “entirely the fault of the current Labour Mayor of London” due to his policy on fares. But the Mayor described the Prime Minister as lying and has defended his financial record, blaming the problems purely on the Covid-19 epidemic. It’s basically a “blame game” so beloved of politicians.

But the reality is that I wrote negatively in January (i.e. before the epidemic hit) on the subject of TfL budgets and finances (see Reference 1 below). The article included these comments:

“Despite cutting operating costs, one of the few good things reported, there will be deficits of £307m, £493m and £513m in TfL (after “capital renewals”) for this year and the two following ones and barely break-even in 2022/23. As a result, the Mayor will have to substantially increase borrowing to cover that and large amounts of capital expenditure for both Crossrail and other network improvements. That includes £2.2 billion this year and next year, followed by £1.2 billion each year in subsequent years. Total borrowing will reach £12.3 billion within 2 years” and “…..the Business Plan may be totally unrealistic. In summary the Business Plan and Budget demonstrate an incompetent Mayor and senior management at TfL who wish to get us all cycling, walking or using public transport while the road network gets worse”.

But ignoring the blame game and past history, what can the Mayor realistically do to avoid TfL becoming bankrupt? These are the main options as I see them:

  1. Reduce services and cut staff (the major proportion of their costs) in TfL so as to match income.
  2. Increase bus and underground fares substantially, a politically unpopular choice as the Mayor has lauded his past fare freezes.
  3. Increase the Mayor’s precept on Council Tax, which would raise Council Tax for all Londoners. A politically unpopular choice for the Mayor as he comes up for re-election in May 2021 and local councils would blame the Mayor for the increases in Council Tax they have to impose.
  4. Expand the Congestion Charge over a wider area, or increase the charges on that or for the ULEZ – the latter is already planned to expand to the North/South Circular in October 2021.

Expanding the Congestion Charge zone would be deeply unpopular with drivers and there are enormous numbers of people who live within the North/South Circular and drive vehicles (about 3 million people with probably 50% of households owning a car).  This is what Deputy Transport Mayor Heidi Alexander said at a recent TfL meeting: “Neither the Mayor nor I can see how it would be right to charge people £15 to drive a mile from Wandsworth to Clapham, or from Catford to Lewisham from October of next year …”.

There have already been over 100,000 signatures on a petition opposing an expansion of the Congestion Charge – see http://chng.it/7zNp6sHhm8 . Please sign it!

The Mayor is therefore faced with some very tough choices, hence his approach of blaming the Government no doubt. But it is his responsibility to make the choice.

I suspect there is going to be a mixture of all the above, or some other compromise, if the Government simply refuses to hand out more cash with no view of when TfL finances will be stable. That is something it should definitely not do.

The Freedom for Drivers Foundation has of course consistently opposed the Congestion Charge, a tax under another name. It is very expensive to collect and has not reduced congestion as claimed. See this web page for an analysis of the Charge and why we still oppose it: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm

We suggest the Mayor should choose options 1 to 3 only. It is not clear to us why drivers should pay to keep public transport afloat – they already pay billions more in taxes than the cost to maintain the roads. In reality part of the problem is that transport in central London is heavily used by commuters from outside London who do not pay the realistic costs of the provision of bus and underground services. Buses for example are subsidised by almost £1 billion per year in London, which is no doubt politically popular (even Boris Johnson bottled bringing it under control when Mayor). But that is one lunacy that should surely be stopped.

TfL Budgets have been driven by political populism for many years when it is in essence a business and should be run like one. Why should TfL who obtain income from public transport also have control of the road network? The result is bias against other forms of transport. It is surely time to remove TfL from the Mayor’s control.

Griff Rhys Jones wrote a very interesting article for the Spectator recently about the dire London transport situation. One of his comments was “The most effective planet-saving reforms would be to prevent commercial ‘centres’ and to spread ‘live-work’ across the entirety of London. Instead, we are once again pursuing outmoded and outdated ‘visions’. (Or ‘fantasies’, as London-wide protests by ordinary working people are calling them.) Our capital is a success because people inhabit it”. See Reference 2 below.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy has certainly been very defective, apart from the budget lunacy and that is one reason why London was so vulnerable to the virus.

Roger Lawson.

Reference 1: TfL Budgets. https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

Reference 2: Spectator Article: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/london-s-war-on-motorists-isn-t-helping-anybody

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Sadiq Khan and TfL Bailed Out

Blackfriars Bridge at Lunch TimeAfter threatening the Government that TfL would have to make deep cuts to public transport in London unless they came up with some money by the close of yesterday, they did agree a bail-out. But with some conditions attached.

The Government has agreed to provide TfL with £1.5 billion in grants and loans to enable TfL to continue operating for at least a few months. With most of TfL’s income coming from bus and underground fares, the collapse in usage as people avoid public transport in the virus pandemic has resulted in massive losses at TfL which are still continuing. In addition the Mayor’s previous decisions to suspend increases in public transport fares, which he made to ensure election, have been enormously damaging to TfL finances and meant they were already budgeting massive deficits even before the epidemic hit.

The suspension of the Congestion Charge and ULEZ has also not helped, plus the fact that you can avoid paying bus fares by entering through the central door as is now required. Even TfL’s advertising revenue has fallen as advertisers’ budgets have fallen and they won’t pay when far few people are using public transport. With social distancing required, even the capacity of buses and the underground will be severely restricted for some time, even if people can be persuaded to use it.

The details of the agreed deal have not yet been disclosed, but the BBC reported that it includes a commitment to raise public transport fares by inflation plus 1%, two seats on the TfL board and a complete review of its finances. TfL has also committed to run a full service when previously they were cutting to 75%.

Mr Khan as usual blamed the Government rather than his own financial incompetence. This is what the BBC reported as being said by someone in the Mayor’s office: “They have forced ordinary Londoners to pay a very heavy price for doing the right thing on Covid-19 by hiking TfL fares, temporarily suspending the Freedom Pass at busy times and loading TfL with debt that Londoners will pay for in the long run”.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said it was wrong for the rest of the country to be bailing out Londoners but in fact Londoners who never use public transport will be paying a lot of the bill anyway via the Mayoral Council Tax Precept and in other ways.

What should the Mayor have done instead of running up a large deficit, and what should he do now?

Clearly many TfL projects have been very expensive. Building cycle superhighways has not come cheap and schemes such as Crossrail have very marginal cost/benefit ratios. The Mayor’s office and TfL management costs have also grown as the Mayor built an empire at taxpayer’s expense. It seems likely that a number of projects such as to expand the underground network will now have to be cancelled. Subsidies to bus operations which have been running at about £1 billion per annum could never be justified except by the desire of the Mayor to win popularity and elections.

The Mayor and TfL have actually cut their bus income by introducing road schemes that slowed traffic including buses, thus cutting bus ridership. You cannot solve these problems by simply encouraging cycling. The average distance travelled by a London commuter is 13 miles per day with many travelling much longer distances. That makes it impractical for many people to cycle even if they had an inclination to do so. The danger of cycling puts many people off using it for long journeys. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that there are 1,139 serious injuries and 29 deaths for every million miles cycled, while for car drivers the figures are only 27 and 2 respectively.

The Mayor and central Government should face up to realities and work on the following:

  1. Free up the road network to enable more commuting via cars/taxis and improve bus services. Stop reducing road space.
  2. Provide more parking facilities at low cost.
  3. Encourage more tele-commuting by investing in broadband services and support.
  4. Encourage businesses to relocate out of congested central London into the London suburbs and elsewhere.
  5. Retail facilities and hotels/restaurants should be relocated similarly.
  6. We should move away from the concentration of businesses and facilities in central London to have a wider distribution so we are not reliant on public transport so much.
  7. Bus and underground services should pay for themselves. Handouts for political reasons (such as the Freedom Pass) should be severely restricted to those who really do need travel support, i.e. those who cannot afford to pay.
  8. The ULEZ and Congestion Charge should be scrapped as they don’t really provide a sensible return on the investment and operating costs. They are simply a financial burden on Londoners with very little benefit.

All it needs is strong and wise leadership from the Mayor of London to get Londoners through the current crisis, but will we get it? It seems unlikely from the current Mayor.

All that is likely to happen is that the TfL deficit will continue to grow after this short-term bail-out unless someone really gets to grips with the underlying financial problems.

P.S. Government announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-grants-transport-for-london-funding-package?   They apparently still think the problems can be solved by encouraging cycling.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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