Transport for London (TfL) today secured another £65million bailout to keep Underground, bus and train services running for another 10 days.
The Government has already provided TfL £3billion in emergency funding during the pandemic as passenger numbers on Tubes and buses in London collapsed last year, decimating the operator’s finances.
TfL and the Department for Transport (DfT) agreed to extend the funding for the next 10 days, costing the taxpayer another £65million on top of the staggering sums of money already spent during the crisis.
It is thought Sadiq Khan has come under pressure from business leaders to secure the extension as the capital finally opens up after five months of lockdown.
Commuters wear masks as they ride a Jubilee line train in central London
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan during a visit to Dumplings’ Legend in China Town
Boris insists there should be ‘conclusive’ evidence on the Indian variant within days as he bids to quell backlash after ministers admitted local lockdowns ARE back on the cards
Boris Johnson today desperately tried to play down rising fears that the June 21 ‘freedom day’ could be ditched as ministers admitted local lockdowns are back on the cards.
The PM stressed that the plan is currently unchanged with the government sifting through emerging data about the fast-spreading strain. But he appeared to shift his language slightly by saying there is not yet ‘conclusive’ evidence that the roadmap will need to be altered and things will be clearer in ‘days’.
He also tried to dampen concerns that vaccine hesitancy could prevent the next round of easings going ahead, pointing out that levels of uptake in the UK were very high by international standards. On a visit to a vaccine centre in London, he urged people to ‘get your jab’ when invited by the health service.
‘We are looking at the epidemiology the whole time as it comes in and, at the moment, partly because we have built up such a wall of defences with the vaccination programme, I don’t see anything conclusive at the moment to say that we need to deviate from the road map,’ he said.
‘But we’ve got to be cautious and we are keeping everything under very close observation.
‘We’ll know a lot more in a few days’ time.’
The comments came after cabinet met to try to thrash out a strategy, with emergency plans that could see local restrictions used to combat hotspots while the rest of the country relaxes.
Campaigning group London First had said it was ‘essential’ for City Hall and Westminster to renew the bargain, which would have expired today.
The group argued that coronavirus restrictions have trashed London’s economy, and the transport network running is ‘essential to the city’s social and economic recovery’.
They called on both TfL and DfT to develop a ‘sustainable and fair’ long-term funding model that reduces TfL’s over-reliance on fares income.
In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced: ‘The Government and the Mayor of London have agreed to extend the current Transport for London (TfL) funding deal.
‘The deal was due to expire on 18 May 2021 but this extension will continue to support the capital and the transport network until 28 May 2021 on the same terms as now. The extension will provide certainty while we finalise the terms of the next funding deal which will get TfL onto a more financially sustainable footing.
‘The extension comprises an additional funding payment of £65million with a top up grant available based on actual passenger revenues.
‘The Government has repeatedly shown that it is committed to supporting the running of essential services across the capital with over £3billion emergency funding provided since the start of the pandemic.
‘Support for London needs to be balanced with the national recovery and ensure fairness and value for money for the taxpayer. The Government will continue to work with TfL and the Mayor so TfL can be financially sustainable as soon as possible.’
A DfT spokesman confirmed to MailOnline that the Government and TfL are in talks to secure a long-term funding deal. However, the department would not be drawn on specifics.
A Mayor of London spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘A long-term funding deal for TfL is essential for London and the rest of the country as the capital is the driving force of the UK economy. We have today (18 May 2021) agreed an extension with the Government until 28 May and hope to reach an agreement soon which will support a robust recovery.’
A TfL spokesman 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.
‘We have today agreed with the Government that our existing funding agreement will be extended until Friday May 28 so that these constructive discussions can be concluded.’
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: ‘The Government is committed to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, and has already provided more than £3billion in emergency funding to TfL.
‘We continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the mayor, and all additional funding provided will continue to move TfL onto a more financially sustainable footing.
‘We have agreed to roll over the existing funding deal until May 28 on the same terms as now whilst a longer term funding offer is made.’
But Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said the ‘continued uncertainty and reliance on short-term fixes will simply hold back our economic recovery causing lasting damage’.
A Central Line train in London during England’s third national lockdown
NHS figures show that vaccine uptake among all over-40s, which is at 83 per cent average across England, is below average in all but one (Sefton) of the Indian variant hotspot areas. Although experts do not think the at-risk older age groups are the ones driving outbreaks at the moment, it could be cause for concern if the virus spreads to them
He added: ‘We need the Government to stop using London transport as a political football, and guarantee it the long-term funding it needs as we move out of lockdown.’
The latest DfT figures show passenger numbers on TfL’s Tube and bus services last week were at 35 per cent and 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels respectively.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused Mr Khan, his successor as London mayor, of ‘blowing’ TfL’s finances through an ‘irresponsible fares policy’.
TfL insists it was on the path to achieving an unprecedented level of financial self-sufficiency until the pandemic significantly reduced its fares revenue.
Adam Tyndall, programme director for transport at London First, said: ‘London does not work without public transport – and without a thriving capital, the UK will not rebound strongly from the pandemic.
‘TfL’s traditional funding model, with its over-reliance on fares compared to other global cities, was already under pressure before the pandemic and the changes to how we live and work and their impact on the transport system cannot be ignored – from flexible working to the use of e‑bikes and e‑scooters.
‘While there are many different types of public transport users, all expect reliability and flexibility, which will be key to getting people back into the capital to support the recovery. That’s why TfL needs a long-term funding deal which takes account of changing passenger needs.’