Sadiq Khan has warned of the economic consequences of the government forcing Transport for London to reduce public transport services, saying this would discourage workers and visitors from travelling to the capital’s core business areas while Covid-19 remains a danger.
Speaking at this morning’s monthly Mayor’s Question Time session, Khan told the London Assembly it has been impressed upon Department for Transport officials that service cuts could lead to overcrowding “at a time when many in the City of London, in Canary Wharf and West End are encouraging their staff to start returning to their offices and when we’re encouraging people to come to the West End”, discouraging public transport use.
He added, in response to a question from Labour transport spokesperson Elly Baker, that transport conditions that lessened ridership would also limit income from fares, which TfL is heavily reliant on. “We’re trying to explain to the government why reducing services may not be the best thing either economically for TfL but also for the economy of our city in relation to those that need higher footfall,” Khan said.
The government has imposed a string of conditions on TfL attached to three emergency financial support packages required due to the pandemic dramatically shrinking passenger numbers and devastating TfL’s finances. The latest arrangement, effective from the start of June until 11 December this year, contains a requirement for a “joint review of demand to inform future service level requirements and potential changes from 2022/23” to be completed by September, encompassing the Underground, Overground and buses.
TfL is informed that it will be “expected to take steps now to ensure they are not locking in future costs and are in a position to reduce service levels efficiently if and when required,” suggesting the “review” is a precursor to the Department for Transport demanding cuts as transport secretary Grant Shapps and Boris Johnson’s transport adviser, his erstwhile media supporter Andrew Gilligan, over-ride the London Mayor’s devolved powers and seek to impose their own priorities on TfL, including inflation-plus fares hikes.
Khan also told the meeting that he, his deputy mayor for transport Heidi Alexander and TfL have been speaking to the Rail Delivery Group national body and various train operating companies with a view to their following the Mayor’s move to make face-coverings a compulsory “condition of carriage”.
Stating that “two-thirds of national rail journeys either begin or end in London,” he pointed out that such excursions could begin in Scotland where face-coverings for passengers are mandatory before passing through much of England “where they are often not” before entering and terminating in London.
Noting that metro mayors of English city regions, including Conservative Andy Street in the West Midlands, have joined him in asked for the face-covering rule to continue after 19 July, he described the present situation as “a hodgepodge” and said “there’s still an opportunity for the government to have one national framework for public transport across the country.”
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