A review of Transport for London’s long-term funding options has been launched on behalf of Sadiq Khan just a day after the government announced its own assessment of the transport body’s finances, from which the Mayor and TfL will be largely excluded.
An unpaid panel of four experts, none of whom work for the Mayor or TfL, is said to have already started looking at models for enabling the long-term delivery of services and investment in new and existing infrastructure. Their efforts will take place “in parallel” with the government’s review, TfL says. The four panel members are:
- Stephen Glaister, Emeritus Professor of Transport and Infrastructure at Imperial College and a member of the TfL board from 2000-2008 under the mayoralties of Boris Johnson.
- Bridget Rosewell, a commissioner for the National Infrastructure Commission, which advises the government.
- TC Chew, Global Rail business leader at Arup.
- Sir Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the European Investment Bank 2013-2019.
New TfL commissioner Andy Byford has welcomed the move, stating that he is looking forward to assisting the panel with its work. “The pandemic has revealed that the current funding model, with its heavy reliance on fare revenue, simply doesn’t work when faced with such a shock,” Byford said. “This important review will examine the options for new and more robust arrangements to provide firmer foundations into the future.”
The panel’s formation comes amid accusations that Johnson’s government is depriving the Mayor of his powers while seeking to blame him for the devastation caused to TfL’s finances by the coronavirus crisis.
The London Assembly Labour Group has accused it of imposing “control from Whitehall” and making “a brazenly political attempt to use this crisis to undermine the Mayor”, and Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs the Assembly’s transport committee, told the Evening Standard the government is “trying to take away more and more powers from the directly-elected Mayor of London”.
Khan’s Conservative challenger for the mayoralty Shaun Bailey has made repeated claims that Khan has “bankrupted” TfL despite the fact that TfL has not gone bankrupt. His fellow Conservative, transport secretary Grant Shapps, told Parliament in May that the “most important” reason TfL needed an emergency financial bailout from the government was “the significant fall in revenue caused by Covid-19”.
In a snipe at Khan, Shapps claimed that TfL’s finances had already been in a “poor condition” as “a result of decisions made over the last four years” and that this had been a secondary factor. However, Byford says that “prudent financial management had placed TfL on the cusp of breaking even for the first time in its history and with strong financial reserves” and TfL says efficiency savings under Khan have seen its like-for-like operating deficit reduced by more than a £1 billion a year.
The government says the Mayor and TfL “will provide views and options” to its review, which is to be led by KPMG and completed by the end of August. The work “should produce a written report suitable for publication if ministers are minded to do so”.
OnLondon.co.uk exists to provide fair, thorough and resolutely anti-populist news, comment and analysis about the UK’s capital city. It now depends more than ever on donations from readers. Give £5 a month or £50 a year and you will receive the On London Extra Thursday email, which rounds up news, views and information from a wide range of sources. Click here to donate via Donorbox or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.