TIME is running out for a new funding settlement for Transport for London, amid increasing crossfire between the government and TfL over what the ‘price’ of a settlement should be.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants driverless trains to be a condition of any payment, but a newly-leaked report prepared by accountants KPMG for TfL is said to conclude that converting the network would cost £7 billion and be ’poor value for money’.
Funding of up to £1.9 billion was agreed for TfL in May, but a two-week extension to that settlement runs out on Saturday.
The next Piccadilly Line fleet is to be built by Siemens on a new site at Goole in Yorkshire, but when Mr Johnson visited the site in July, he said: ‘You can run these trains without the need for somebody to be sitting in the driver’s cab the whole time. So what I will be saying to the London transport authority is let’s take advantage of this technological leap forward, let’s not be the prisoners of the unions any more, let’s go to driverless trains and let’s make that a condition of the funding settlement for Transport for London this autumn.’
The KPMG research has apparently found that unstaffed trains despatched and driven automatically would be poor value for money, although automatic trains with a staff member on board to control the doors, as on the Docklands Light Railway, could offer ‘reasonable value for money’ as part of ‘an integrated line and train system upgrade’.
TfL said: ‘The possibilities, costs and benefits of driverless trains are things that TfL has looked at in the past and will continue to keep under review but it is not something we are actively pursuing.’
The Department for Transport has declined to comment, but the driverless plan is being rigorously opposed by rail unions.
ASLEF organiser Finn Brennan said: ‘If the Government tries to force TfL to waste huge sums on this pointless exercise, it would suck resources away from projects that could have real positive benefits for passenger safety and bankrupt the entire Tube network.’
The RMT, meanwhile, claims that the former National Rail franchises are getting up to 22 times more funding than TfL could be set to receive.
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘It cannot be right that Londoners are being threatened with 22 times less funding per passenger journey than the private train companies.
‘We welcome the support that’s been given to the rail industry but we have to see the same standards applied to London’s massive transport network.
‘Instead we’re seeing a politically motivated attack which is starving the capital of transport finding and piling on the pain for ordinary Londoners and small businesses.’