Transport for London’s current emergency funding arrangement with the government is being extended for a further ten days, until 28 May, so that discussions about the next financial package can be concluded.
The deal presently in place, which was struck at the end of October last year, has already had its lifespan lengthened once, having originally been due to run out at the end of March. With negotiations continuing, it was extended to 18 May shortly before that deadline expired. It is the second such “emergency funding package”. The first was provided in May 2020.
Announcing the latest extension, a TfL spokesperson said: “We continue to discuss our funding requirements with the government and hope these discussions can be concluded successfully soon, to enable a strong and robust recovery from the pandemic.” The discussions were described as “constructive” and the spokesperson expressed hope that a resolution can be found in the next ten days.
The news comes as TfL reports a continuing steady increase in the use of buses and the London Underground as Covid restrictions have eased. Morning peak Tube demand has reached around 37 per cent of the normal pre-pandemic amount and bus demand has recovered to 61 per cent.
Since yesterday, 60 people have been allowed on board a bus at any one time – an increase from the earlier limit of 30. The Waterloo & City line, a vital link for commuters who work in the Square Mile, is due to return to operation from 21 June.
There are hopes at City Hall that with the election for Mayor out of the way the government will stop “playing politics” with TfL’s financial crisis, which was precipitated by a collapse in income from fares when people stopped using public transport from time of the first lockdown last spring.
In October, Boris Johnson used a Prime Minister’s Questions session to falsely assert that TfL’s financial crisis was “entirely the fault of the current Mayor of London” Sadiq Khan. In April, Johnson used a Covid briefing to misleadingly suggest that Khan’s four-year freeze of TfL fares was the main reason for the need for a bailout.
TfL says the freeze cost it £640 million over the four years it was in place, a figure dwarfed by total income from fares during that period of around £20 billion. TfL also says financial efficiencies made during Khan’s term have compensated for the fare income foregone.
During the election campaign, defeated Conservative London Mayor candidate Shaun Bailey repeatedly lied that TfL, a local authority body, had been “bankrupt” even before the pandemic. At the time of the first rescue package the Department for Transport commissioned an independent review of TfL’s financial situation by accountants KPMG, which it has refused to make public.
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