Leading industry figures have renewed their calls for a long-term funding settlement to be agreed between the UK government and Transport for London (TfL).
The calls came after the latest last-ditch short-term funding extension – the eleventh such emergency stop-gap deal in the long-running saga - was only agreed late last week, after funding was due to come to a grinding halt on 23 June.
But the new emergency funding extension only lasts a few short weeks, until 13 July, with London mayor Sadiq Khan and transport secretary Grant Shapps accusing each other of playing politics and seemingly no closer to agreeing a long-term solution, with the mayor claiming that TfL is facing a period of managed decline unless a long-term deal is agreed.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The government has only given TfL another short-term extension, of just a matter of weeks, to the current emergency funding deal. This is no way to treat Londoners and the transport network they rely upon.
“The pandemic is the only reason TfL is facing a financial crisis. If the government continues to refuse to properly fund TfL as we desperately need, TfL will be have no choice but to put our transport network into managed decline. This would mean almost one in five bus services being axed and cuts to London Underground services of nearly 10% – the equivalent of closing an entire tube line.
“I urge Grant Shapps to meet with me so that we can finally agree a fair, sustainable, long-term funding deal that will protect London’s transport network – for the sake of the capital and the whole country.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps hit back, accused the mayor of playing politics, refused to rule out further temporary deals rather than a long-term solution, and called for a reset of the relationship.
In a letter to the mayor, Shapps said: “As you know, we do want to give TfL a longer-term capital deal. But your tactics are the wrong way to achieve one. They are harming London's interests. If we are to make a longer-term funding commitment, you must keep your promises and we must be able to deal with you and TfL on a basis of honesty and seriousness, not campaigns of scaremongering and threats.
“TfL's services are at no risk, unless you want them to be, and should not be undermined for political ends. As we have stated before, we will continue revenue support, in further temporary deals if necessary. We remain open to giving you a longer-term capital settlement. But it will require a reset of the relationship.”
A TfL spokesperson said: "We continue to discuss our funding requirements with the government. There is no UK recovery from the pandemic without a London recovery and there is no London recovery without a properly funded transport network in the capital. It is essential London receives the sustained long-term government funding that is vital for the coming years if a period of 'managed decline' of London's transport network is to be avoided.
"We have agreed with the government that our existing funding agreement will be extended until 13 July 2022 so these discussions can be resumed. Whilst in receipt of government support, we have worked hard to progress all conditions placed on TfL, and continue to believe that we have met them all.
“Working together, we must achieve a longer term capital funding settlement that ensures London's transport network can remain reliable and efficient, can support the jobs and new homes that rely upon it and can support the economic recovery of the capital and the country as a whole. We hope these discussions can be concluded successfully soon."
Railway Industry Association (RIA) chief executive Darren Caplan said: "It must be a concern for everyone who uses, pays for, or works on the railways and tube network in London, that this latest extension marks the eleventh ‘stop-gap’ funding settlement between the government and TfL in just over two years.
“There clearly needs to be a longer-term deal and we strongly urge the DfT and TfL to negotiate a properly funded multi-annual settlement as soon as possible. Doing so will ensure that the work on vital rail upgrades can go ahead, which ultimately benefits passengers, boosts jobs and investment, and ensures value for money for the taxpayer.
“The longer this cycle of short-termism goes on, the harder it will be to affordably maintain and build the capital’s transport system, and support not just London’s economy into the future, but also the wider UK’s.”