THE funding debate at Transport for London has reached crisis proportions, as the Mayor of London hit out this morning at ‘draconian’ government plans to increase fares by more than RPI+1 per cent, extend the Congestion Charge Zone to the North and South Circular roads in a year from now and withdraw some concessions, including free travel for passengers under 18.
The government is said to be demanding these changes in return for providing more financial support for TfL after the latest two-week funding extension runs out at the end of this month.
The RMT is protesting bitterly about the implications, and the union is pledging an ‘all-out fight’ to protect jobs, pensions and working conditions.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is calling on ministers to publish the taxpayer-funded review into TfL’s finances which was commissioned from KPMG. City Hall claims this has ‘only been shared with TfL with heavy redactions – preventing a transparent discussion about funding options to date.’
Mr Khan is denying suggestions that taxpayers in the rest of the country would be subsidising TfL.
He said: ‘I simply cannot accept this Government plan, which would hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs at a time when so many people are already facing hardship.
‘Ministers already forced TfL to bring forward proposals to increase the cost and hours of the congestion charge in May – now they want to expand it to cover four million more Londoners. They also want to significantly increase fares in London and hit all Londoners with a regressive new tax.
‘It is clear that difficult choices lie ahead to plug the huge gap the pandemic left in TfL’s finances. I have been ready to talk with Government about how the necessary funds can be raised – but a proposal which singles out Londoners for punishment is completely unacceptable, as well as making no economic sense.
‘I urge Ministers to come back to the table with a revised proposal which does not punish Londoners for doing the right thing to tackle Covid-19 – and to publish their review into TfL’s finances in full. I remain ready to talk.’
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘It is appalling that the Government are targeting staff pensions amongst a range of other savage measures in this short-term funding deal. I put them on notice that any attempt to hack away at our members pension rights will be met by an all-out campaign of political and industrial resistance.
‘These are difficult times for the staff who have kept London moving since the COVID pandemic and it is a disgrace that they are now being set up for a battering in these cuts measures. The TFL staff are essential workers who have performed heroically and RMT will fight off any attempt to hack back on jobs, pay, pensions and conditions.’
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes added: ‘This punishment of Londoners and TfL is nakedly political from the Tories. They were only too happy to prop up failing private train operators, but when it comes to our country’s transport success story they won’t provide the funds needed.’
The DfT responded: ‘We have agreed an extension to the support period and to roll over unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement. These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.’