More than twice as many Londoners hold either Covid-19 or the government mostly to blame for Transport for London’s financial difficulties than either Sadiq Khan or Transport for London combined, according to new opinion poll findings provided exclusively to On London.
Asked to select from the four options, 39% of the 2,000 Londoners surveyed said the coronavirus pandemic is “chiefly responsible” for TfL’s predicament and 19% named the UK government, compared with 15% who chose City Hall and the Mayor and 13% who mostly blamed TfL. A further 15% said they didn’t know.
The results, from fieldwork conducted between 15 and 17 October by polling company Redfield & Wilton, come as TfL chiefs and government officials extend their negotiations over conditions attached to a second rescue package for the capital’s transport body, reportedly for a short-term £1 billion. TfL have asked for £2 billion to cover their operating costs through to next April, plus a further £2.9 billion for the ensuing financial year.
The poll also found positive satisfaction levels among Londoners for Mayor Khan’s transport policies as a whole during his four-and-a-half-year mayoral term so far, with 35% declaring themselves satisfied and 10% very satisfied, compared with 16% dissatisfied and 11% very dissatisfied, giving a net satisfaction score of +18.
However, there was more support for the temporary suspension of free public transport travel for under-18s than opposition to it in the context of TfL’s funding problems. An overall 39% of respondents to the survey said they favour the change, which the government required TfL to introduce as a condition of its first bailout package in May, despite strong and public opposition from the Mayor. An overall 32% said they are against it.
It is “strongly” supported by 14% and strongly opposed by 16%, suggesting the issue is of particular concern to groups of Londoners that would feel its effects most strongly. The suspension has not yet taken place because of the technical complexities of doing so.
There is majority support for the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have been a sometimes controversial element of new street management measures during the pandemic, designed to aid social distancing as well as encourage walking and cycling and improve air quality.
One third of respondents to the Redfield & Wilton survey (33%) said they support the introduction of LTNs and a further 19% said they “strongly support” them, making 52% supportive as a whole. Only 9% said they oppose them and 10% said they strongly oppose them. At the same time, more Londoners believe LTNs have been ineffective in “reducing the number of cars on the road in London” than believe the opposite by a margin of 36% to 29%, with 35% saying they don’t know.
New LTNs were part of another condition of the government’s first TfL bailout, which said a minimum of £55 million should be spent on them and other Active Travel interventions. Unlike the suspension of free travel for under-18s, the Mayor is in favour of these initiatives, which fall within his wider London Streetspace programme. There have been 160 new LTNs introduced across 21 London boroughs.
The poll also found high levels of support for the proposition that “most Central London streets should be made pedestrian only”, with 34% agreeing with it and an additional 16% strongly agreeing. By contrast, 18% disagreed and 9% did so strongly. Asked if London is a safe or unsafe place to cycle, 53% said “unsafe” and 29% said “safe”. Asked if public transport in London should be free at point of use for all, 44% either agreed (26%) or strongly agreed (18%), while 32% either disagreed (19%) or strongly disagreed (13%). Khan received a +11 satisfaction rating for his policies for the environment as Mayor.
The 2,000 Londoners polled were also asked about the controversy surrounding who should pay for repairing Hammersmith Bridge, which was closed to motorised traffic in April 2019 after it was found to be unsafe, and was closed to pedestrians and cyclists as well in August of this year. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they were unaware of the issue. Asked whether the government, TfL, City Hall or the local councils affected should pay for the repair work, the largest percentage (28%) said the government should pay, 22% said the councils, 14% said TfL and 12% said City Hall, while 24% said they didn’t know.
As well as transport policies and funding problems, the poll probed Londoners’ feelings about the capital’s economic recovery from the pandemic. More were pessimistic than were optimistic about a quick recovery taking place when the pandemic has ended, though the difference was small: 27% said they are pessimistic and 13%, very pessimistic; 27% said they are optimistic and 6%, very optimistic.
A separate question about economic recovery found a greater divergence of views: 74% were more inclined to the view that London’s economy “will still take some time to recover from the impact of the pandemic when there is a vaccine or some other solution” to it than were inclined to the view that the economy will “immediately recover” in those circumstances, which was the choice of only 19%.
Londoners expressed clear net satisfaction with Mayor Khan’s policies for supporting London’s economy since his election in May 2016 in the poll, with 31% saying they are satisfied and 9% very satisfied, compared with 16% dissatisfied and 9% very dissatisfied – a net satisfaction outcome of +15. However, there was a much more closely balanced finding regarding his policy approach to the coronavirus, where Khan’s net score was +1. The satisfied proportion was 24% and the very satisfied was 7%, and the dissatisfied was 17% and the very dissatisfied a relatively high 13%. The largest group were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied: 31%.
Mayor Khan will take encouragement from his +10 overall satisfaction rating for his policies on policing, though there was a less conclusive response to a question about where blame lies for the capital’s crime issues. Asked which institution is “most to blame” for these, 29% chose “Westminster and Number 10”, 23% said “the Greater London Authority and City Hall” and 20% chose the Metropolitan Police. At the same time, a majority of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that their local area is “a safe place”: 43% and 10% respectively. Only 14% disagreed and only 5% did so strongly.
The only policy area in which Mayor Khan received a negative satisfaction rating was housing, where 21% are dissatisfied and 13% very dissatisfied compared with 23% who are satisfied and 6% very dissatisfied, resulting in a net satisfaction rating of -3. Further results from Redfield & Wilton’s poll will be released in the coming days.
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