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Uneasy truce ends TfL funding row

Featured in the Future Transport London Newsletter September 2022

After countless extensions to the short-term funding agreement, and a final deadline of 3rd August , TfL ran on empty until 30th August when an emergency board meeting agreed to accept the deal on offer from the Department of Transport. The alternative was a section 114 notice and the government running bus and tube services instead of the Mayor.

Details of the agreement remain sketchy. There was reference in press reports to the new Piccadilly line trains, but those had been committed to before the pandemic and are being built in Goole. Nothing has been said about the signaling upgrade which would make optimal use of the new rolling stock. The under 18 pass is protected, but the cost to the public purse of doing otherwise was greater than the cost of the current scheme. Nothing has been said about the ‘temporary’ restrictions on the Freedom Pass or the demise of the over 60 pass. Bus cuts will be 4 per cent rather than 18 per cent, but it is unclear if this will influence consideration of the responses to the recent consultation. TfL is required to put forward options for reform of its pension scheme, but not directed to change it, and one of the options will be the status quo. Changes to the state pension age could lead to alterations to the occupational scheme in any case.

The deal is for eighteen months; Andy Byford was hoping for three years. The temporary sticking plaster agreement lasted for more than two years, so at that rate negotiations for the next deal should have started six months ago. The hope is that fares and other income will cover operating costs in eighteen months’ time, but the Mayor has to find £600k. of unspecified savings. There would then need to be an agreement on capital projects. Given the gestation period of major schemes (Crossrail route safeguarded 1989, opened 2022) we will be witnessing the effects of this long period of inaction in twenty years’ time.

We are told the final agreement is an improvement on the ‘final’ offer issued in July, but no detail of what has been changed. There are hints of heavy fare increases, with the RPI + 1 formula not ruled out as it has been for National Rail fares. Just as the Mayor could not freeze all fares, the DfT cannot enforce disproportionate increases in London fares.

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