January 22, 2020

Deputy mayor slams government for abandoning London’s transport network

London's deputy mayor for transport will issue a rebuke of government today for abandoning the capital's transport network as Transport for London (TfL) faces a near £1bn operational deficit next year.

The organisation is dealing with the loss of government funding, as well as a surprise fall in passenger numbers, and tonight, Val Shawcross will call for a reinstatement of London's "vital transport funding" to help shore up future progress.

Speaking at the International Transport Workers' Federation urban transport committee at City Hall, Shawcross will say: "With the economic uncertainty of Brexit, it’s more important than ever that the government supports our capital – because when London succeeds, the country succeeds."

Read more: TfL facing £1bn operational deficit as revenue raising efforts suffer blow

Our capital is the beating heart of the UK and our roads are the arteries, so it’s just astounding that the government is not only prepared to take away vital funding but make London’s drivers pay for roads outside the capital.

We’ve seen from the success of the Crossrail project how investment in London can benefit the whole of the country, and it’s vital that the government uses its spring statement next month to reinstate TfL’s funding and keep the capital moving.

TfL's budget is £700m a year lower after the government's decision in 2015 to strip back the operating grant, while the capital's transport bosses are also angry that the government has said that from 2021, the £500m raised each year through Londoners' vehicle excise duty will be invested solely in roads outside the capital.

City Hall says Londoners are paying for roads across the UK with no contribution towards the upkeep of the roads they will be driving on, and the costs of running London's roads are being subsidised from public transport fare-payers.

The capital's transport chiefs have also said the government has blocked London from accessing the new £220m national clean air fund.

A fresh blow in recent weeks came with transport secretary Chris Grayling stepping in to block TfL's planned motorist fine hike, saying the rise, which was forecast to bring in an extra £80m, would be "excessive".

The move drew criticism from London Assembly Labour member Tom Copley at the time, who said: "Chris Grayling has form when it comes to playing politics with London's transport network, having already reneged on the deal to devolve suburban rail services to TfL. It is unfortunate that he continues to do so."

The mayor has pushed for a major overhaul of TfL with significant savings needed, though critics have said his partial fare freeze has added to the pressure.

Shawcross meanwhile, has said the axing of government funding is not sustainable for the capital in the long-run.

So far, the budget reduction has meant all non-essential road improvements have been paused for two years.

Separately, the fall in passenger numbers has led to the cancellation of two major Tube upgrades on the Northern and Jubilee Lines, as the Tube is the only part of the network to make a profit.

The Department for Transport has previously said on the issue: "We are taking the big decisions for Britain’s future and investing a record £23bn on our roads to improve journeys for motorists.

“It is the responsibility of the mayor to determine how Transport for London’s budget is spent.”

Read more: Huge Tube upgrade will boost reliability on nearly half the network

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