TfL crisis: Sadiq Khan ‘needs to get real and provide own solution', says Paul Scully

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TfL crisis: Sadiq Khan ‘needs to get real and provide own solution’, says Paul Scully
© PA Wire Tube strike

The Government insisted on Wednesday there was no need to cut bus and Tube services as it accused Sadiq Khan of making unfounded and “melodramatic” claims about a lack of investment in London.

Paul Scully, the Minister for London, said there was “no basis” for the Mayor’s threat to axe 100 bus routes and close an entire Tube line as “more than enough money” would be provided to maintain services at their current levels.

Transport for London’s latest bail-out expires on Saturday but the Department for Transport is willing to continue the current arrangement, meaning TfL would receive about £300m by April in lieu of lower fares income.

A Government source told the Standard: “There is a deal on the table, if he wants it.”

The source suggested it was time for the Mayor to “get real” and provide his own solutions to TfL’s funding crisis – and accept that passenger demand may never return to pre-pandemic levels.

But Mr Khan is desperate to secure long-term capital funding to maintain and upgrade the transport network and a TfL source said on Wednesday: “There is no deal on the table that is visible to the human eye.”

TfL crisis: Sadiq Khan ‘needs to get real and provide own solution’, says Paul Scully
© Provided by Evening Standard Paul Scully: “We absolutely do want to give TfL a longer-term deal.” (BEIS)

Mr Scully, in a strongly worded intervention published on the Evening Standard website, writes: “There is, and will be, more than enough money to keep services running at their current levels, and there is no basis whatever for Khan’s threat to cut them.

“In the next deal we will commit, as we have before, to making up TfL’s loss of fare revenue from Covid. TfL’s main source of income is therefore guaranteed by the State – at a cost so far to national taxpayers of more than £4bn.”

The Government wants TfL to rethink its investment programme in light of what could be long-term changes to travel demand, as commuters abandon a five-day trek to the office for “hybrid” working from home.

It wants Mr Khan to “take more financial responsibility” for generating funds for TfL. Sources indicate Ministers would back moves from Mr Khan such as widening the congestion charge zone, abandoning plans to reduce its operating hours in the evening, increasing the ultra-low emission zone levy annually or introducing pay-per-mile road user charging.

The Government also questions whether there will be sufficient passenger demand to increase the number of trains on Tube lines, as TfL wants, or to rebuild stations such as Holborn.

Mr Scully said: “We’ve said many times that we will help TfL with major enhancements like new trains and signalling. We absolutely do want to give them a longer-term deal.

“We have paid, and will continue to pay, for TfL because we see it as essential for London, and a model for the rest of the country. That support is why TfL’s staff and services are at no risk, unless the mayor wants them to be.”

TfL revealed this week that passenger numbers on the Tube during the morning peak is only about 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. Even by 2024/25, Tube journeys are only expected to reach 84 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

TfL crisis: Sadiq Khan ‘needs to get real and provide own solution’, says Paul Scully
© Provided by Evening Standard Sadiq Khan: warned that Tube station job losses are “only the start” of cuts at TfL (PA Wire)

Mr Khan says the failure to secure funding for major upgrades could force TfL to cut bus services by 18 per cent and Tube services by nine per cent, with an entire line possibly having to close.

On Tuesday TfL said it faced having to axe up to 600 Tube station staff posts – prompting the RMT to ballot members for a strike.

Mr Khan has been asked to demonstrate how TfL can generate £500m to £1bn a year in additional income from April 2023.

He had suggested a £3.50-a-day Greater London boundary charge or returning the VED vehicle tax paid by London motorists to the capital, but the Government has rejected both options.

Mr Khan said the Tube job losses announced were “only the start” of the consequences of TfL not receiving the financial support it needed.

“Unless we get a long-term deal in both revenue and capital, it will have an impact on transport services – almost a 10 per cent cut in Tubes, almost a 20 per cent cut in our buses, but also it will affect communities across the country as well because we support 42,000 jobs.

“The Government has said to us we’ve got to find more than £700 million additional savings on top of the £1 billion we’ve had to cut, and that’s why we’re seeing vacancies not being filled in some jobs and potentially some jobs being lost.

“We’re going to make sure though that we consult widely, and our top priority is going to be safety. We’re going to make sure that all our stations have staff, all our passengers – particularly women and girls – feel safe and are safe. That’s why it is important to work collegiately with others to consult properly on these plans.”

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