London

Sadiq Khan accuses government over 'misleading' bailout statement

Sadiq Khan Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sadiq Khan said the government's statement on the bailout was misleading

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has defended himself against claims a £1.6bn government bailout of Transport for London was in part due to poor financial management.

The government agreed to release emergency funding on Thursday in exchange for a series of concessions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has criticised the "pre-existing poor condition of TfL's financial position".

Mr Khan said the statement was "highly political" and "at best misleading".

The government's comments were "in keeping with the highly political way they conducted these negotiations [and] is at best misleading," the mayor said.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Shapps said "an important secondary factor" in the need for a bailout "was the pre-existing poor condition of Transport for London's (TfL) financial position as a result of decisions made over the last four years".

Mr Khan became mayor of London in May 2016, succeeding Boris Johnson.

In response, Mr Khan said: "TfL's finances were in much better shape immediately before Covid-19 than the mess I inherited from the prime minister when he left City Hall.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Transport for London has had to significantly reduce Tube services because of coronavirus

"The only reason TfL is now in financial difficulties, just like every transport operator, is because our fares income has fallen by 90% during lockdown."

In exchange for the emergency funding TfL agreed to:

  • Restore a full Underground service as soon as possible
  • Collect fares on buses, which it had stopped doing during the crisis due to driver safety
  • Temporarily suspend free travel for over-60s in the morning peak and for under-18s all day
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Grant Shapps said TfL was in a poor financial position "as a result of decisions made over the last four years"

Mr Khan said the government had "insisted" on bringing back the congestion charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone.

The government had "also insisted that Londoners' fares must go up above inflation next year," Mr Khan said.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption In 2019-20 Transport for London earned £4.9bn from fares -making up 47% of the transport authority's income

It costs £600m a month to keep the network running on its current reduced service, TfL has said.

The lockdown has led to a 95% cut in people using the Tube compared to this time last year.

The number of bus passengers has also dropped, by 85%, and customers no longer have to tap-in to pay for rides as part of measures to protect drivers.

Most TfL services are still running, but 7,000 staff - about 25% of the workforce - have been furloughed to cut costs.

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