Transport for London (TfL) has reached an agreement with the UK Government that its emergency support, last agreed on 1 November 2020 and planned to last until the end of March 2021, will be extended until 18 May 2021.
The government support was needed to address Transport for London’s forecast funding shortfall arising from the loss of passenger revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current agreement estimated that support to be £1.8 billion for the five months November to March. The extension will be under the same terms as the existing agreement.
Andy Byford, London’s transport commissioner, explained: “Today, we’ve agreed with the government that our funding will be extended until 18 May on the same terms that have applied to our current funding for the second half of 2020/21.
“Over the coming weeks, the leadership team and I will continue discussions with the government on our need for further financial support and a long-term capital funding deal. This is vital for us to support a strong and robust recovery from the pandemic and to provide confidence to our UK-wide supply chain.”
Unlike other major international capital transport systems, TfL is hugely reliant on the income of the fare box to run services and has had central government funding cut in recent years.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union, which represents many TfL workers, commented: “We welcome this funding extension, but Transport for London desperately needs a long-term settlement which takes away the disruptive uncertainty of fare box fluctuation.
“As we emerge from lockdown, it’s vital that people are encouraged onto safe public transport services rather than using private vehicles which will increase pollution levels across the capital.
“We welcome the work done to encourage active travel such as cycling and walking, but travel habits must also be shaped by mass, clean, affordable and reliable public transport, and that can only be delivered through financial certainty.”
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association (RIA), spoke on behalf of the supply chain: “It is welcome to see financial support extended for Transport for London until 18 May, which should ensure rail services continue to operate and shows a commitment from both the government and Mayor of London to support rail during and following the coronavirus pandemic.
“Nevertheless, as we emerge from this pandemic, rail businesses all over the UK, who work on rail schemes in and around the capital, will require certainty over what the future looks like. This is why the Railway Industry Association and our members would like to see longer term, multi-year, funding settlements – similar to Network Rail’s five-year Control Period system – for all regions and devolved nations around the UK.
“RIA is bullish about rail passengers returning to the network over the coming years, as they always do following recessions and various crises, including pandemics. But during this time, before passenger numbers return to longer-term trend, rail suppliers need funding certainty and visibility to support the capital’s railway network, and ensure current schemes, and future ones like Crossrail and Crossrail 2, get delivered efficiently and cost-effectively, benefiting passengers, freight, and ultimately the taxpayer.
“We therefore urge the Government and TfL to work together to find a long term solution for rail funding in and around the capital – doing so supports rail jobs and growth not only in London, but throughout the whole of the UK.”