In just a weeks time, unless a deal is struck, TfL will yet again, start to run out of money and will have to look at shutting down its services. Ever since the pandemic wiped out TfL’s income, while at the same time the government told TfL to keep operating its services, the organisation has been on a drip-feed of money with strings attached. A lot of strings.

The bailouts for other transport organisations and other industries were given with minimal conditions, as is to be expected during an emergency. Sometimes you simply don’t have the time to thrash out the small print, and just have to open a firehose of cash knowing some will be wasted, but that the alternative is far worse.

However, TfL, having long been hampered by the lack of the usual operating subsidy that major public transport networks receive, has also been hammered by a long list of demands from the central government, and the Department for Transport (DfT) in particular.

Using a crisis to force through changes that might otherwise struggle to get approved in good times is not in itself a bad thing. It’s quite sensible in fact. What’s undeniably odd though is how London is being singled out for the level of punishment that isn’t happening to other transport providers.

For reasons I’ll explore below, public transport is often partially subsidised by national governments because the social good that comes from it is better than the alternative of long road jams as people drive to work. It sits in the realm of government spending that encompasses such things as road building, healthcare, education, etc – something that should be funded by the government for the wider good of society as a whole.

London’s transport is unusual in that it lacks a general tax based subsidy, and while TfL is able, indirectly, to claim business and developer taxes, it’s still a very narrowly focused revenue stream, and not as broadly based as in most countries. That means TfL is very heavily dependent on fares to cover its running costs — as much as three-quarters of TfL’s income comes from people paying to travel, compared to as little as 40% in say Paris or New York.

To close the gap between its running costs and its income, TfL either has to cut services or raise fares.

Cutting services 

This is harder than it seems. Buses can be left in garages and staff laid off to cut those costs, but buses carry about twice the number of passengers as the tube/rail, and often in parts of London that lack alternatives, so cutting bus services hits more people and hits them harder.

Unfortunately, cutting rail services has a minimal impact on costs as so much of the rail network is capital intensive in terms of running it. Cut the number of trains by, for example, 10 per cent, and you’ll be lucky to cut your costs by more than a percentage point or two.

All the fuss about driverless trains, ignoring the multi-billion upgrade cost of the project, would shave at best a few tens of millions off TfL’s costs. Hardly worth the effort. And there are far more bus drivers than train drivers, but no one seems to want driverless buses.

I know as I write this there’s going to be a lot of “whataboutery” in the comments, what about this, or that, or the other. Most of the suggestions will shave insignificant sums off TfL’s running costs at often very high costs elsewhere.

Unless someone genuinely does know of a cost saving of £500 million a year that can be delivered with minimal impact?

Raising fares

Without affordable public transport, people who need to get to work will have to drive, with all the attendant problems that causes. Even if all cars are electric and aren’t pumping out petrol fumes, we still end up with gridlock in the crowded streets and nowhere to park when you get to your destination. But even with electric cars, particulate pollution from brakes and tyres is still considerable.

So, public transport is not just efficient, but also environmentally friendly – or at least, less environmentally bad than the alternatives. This is why most governments, except the UK’s tend to subsidise the cost of public transport. The downsides of not doing so are worse than the cost of doing so, and the overall benefits to society as a whole are part of the general good that we expect governments to fund from general taxation.

Increased levels of public transport still benefit the people who have to drive thanks to lower road congestion on their journey and the lower levels of pollution around their homes.

And less traffic noise. Remember the excitement as people were able to hear birdsong for the first time during the great lockdown?

So it can be argued that general taxes being used to reduce the cost of public transport is a good thing. But the UK government seems to be set on forcing more of the cost of public transport onto the travelling public at a time when there are fewer people travelling.

This has wider implications than it first seems.

If you’re a relatively well paid person in a nice home with a large living room or spare room to use, then working from home a few days a week is a pleasant experience.

Good for them, but a lot of white-collar workers who are on lower salaries will not have a spare room to work in. They are more likely to be in a flatshare with a couple of other people and won’t even have a living room, and may not even have all that much spare space in their bedroom to put up a table to work from.

For these people, working from home is a dreadful experience, and many are pleased to escape the room, even if only to the office. And the office probably has air conditioning.

However, despite people often saying “we’re working from home now”, shop workers aren’t. Nurses aren’t. Construction workers can’t build homes working from home. The person emptying your bins each week certainly isn’t doing that from home.  A large percentage of people have to travel to work and are often also on a lower than average salary. Increasing the cost of public transport means the least able to afford it are also the ones being asked to pay more.

It’s worse though.

A lot of white-collar workers who can work from home are not just enjoying the lack of commute in general, most are substantially better off financially now that they don’t pay for season tickets to commute to work. If an oil firm made such an unexpected gain we’d be clamouring for a windfall tax. But the current position appears to be seeking to do the exact opposite – raise the cost of living for the people on the lowest wages, while allowing the already wealthier people to keep their unexpected windfalls.

That doesn’t sound like levelling up.

Is the rest of the UK being asked to pay for London’s transport?

No.

One of the issues where the facts and public perception are a mile apart is whether the rest of the UK subsidises London’s transport. Any time I write about a transport upgrade in the southeast, I can guarantee there will be responses from people in other parts of the UK complaining that “their” money is being spent in London while they go without.

If that were the case, I’d be agreeing with them.

However, as has been reported so many times that it should be common knowledge, but it ain’t, London isn’t subsidised at all.

In fact, quite the opposite.

In 2019, the UK government received an average of £18,965 in taxes from each person in London, and spent £14,300 — so the government made a profit of £4,369 per person. Only the Southeast of England and East of England also recorded net profits for the government – the rest of the UK runs at a loss.

So the argument that the rest of the UK pays for London’s transport is backwards, it’s the other way round – London and the southeast helps to pay for the rest of the UK. The figures wobble a lot year on year, but on average, London makes a profit for the UK government of around £35-40 billion.

Although London contains some of the poorest parts of the UK in terms of borough deprivation, it’s still overall richer than the rest of the country, and one of the advantages of funding social good from general taxation is that both the costs and benefits can be spread out across the whole country. So London’s tax surplus supports government spending outside the southeast.

And that is a Good Thing.

Spreading out the costs means that you’re not dependent on local incomes to fund local services. Whenever someone rants that their taxes are subsidising London’s transport, I point out that if we went for a “local taxes to be spent locally”, that would make London richer and the rest of the UK poorer.

And that is a Bad Thing.

So, London makes a net contribution to the UK government’s income and in terms of transport costs, manages to do that without the sort of subsidy that most large public transport networks would require to run. That’s in part a benefit of the fact that despite the moans, TfL is a well run organisation, but also because it’s large enough and diverse enough that it can cross subsidise its operations.

In the years before the pandemic, the tube made an operational profit, while the buses ran at a loss. Coincidentally, the tube profit almost exactly matched the bus losses, so TfL was able to use the surplus from the tube to fund the cost of providing a bus network. And as the buses carry on average around twice as many people as the tube, this is a very good thing.

It’s also the reason why buses in London can be affordable. When Mayors in other cities complain that London’s buses are cheaper because London gets special treatment, they are usually claiming London is subsidised by the government, when in fact, London’s low prices are because it has a single transport body.

Outside London, there’s a lack of regulatory freedom to build large public transport networks.

Councils and Mayors lack the ability to raise local taxes and raise local property developer contributions, to apply local road charges, or to borrow debt to fund upgrades and expansions. These are why London was able to fund its public transport upgrades – it can borrow and raise taxes.

Note, that’s not the rest of the UK subsidising London, it’s Londoners who are funding London’s transport. It’s London using the regulatory powers it has to improve its local transport.

Yes, some capital investment is funded by the central government, as you would expect, but even the Elizabeth line (nee Crossrail) was only built because London was in a position to pick up 70% of the costs, even though all the taxes from the estimated £42 billion in GDP growth will go to the central government, not to London.

The rest of the UK needs the ability to have their own local integrated transport plans.

Normally, the phrase “integrated transport plan” is code that the politicians have run out of ways to fix things, so they appoint a transport supremo to sound like something is being done, when in fact nothing really happens, usually because so many different bodies have a say in what will happen.

However, remarkably, TfL managed to turn orthodox thinking on its head and showed that an integrated transport plan can work, when it’s deployed on a large enough scale by a single organisation and that the costs can be absorbed by enough people to make a material difference to the service being paid for.

It’s time that the rest of the UK was granted the same regulatory powers to have their own integrated transport policies. Those would likely not be city-based, but conurbation wide, as you’d need the scale to deliver the benefits. Allowing, for example, Greater Manchester to run local trains as well as local buses and trams, and to borrow against future income would allow the city to upgrade local transport based on local needs and aspirations.

I think they call that “levelling up”.

But first, we need to avoid levelling down London.

And that’s where to put it a bluntly…

…the politicians need to shut up.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has been on a rampage over the past year or so arguing that London is getting a raw deal from the central government over its finances. In purely financial grounds, he is absolutely right in this. He has however engaged in a very public spat with the government as opposed to engaging in productive negotiations.

One of the difficulties of having a Mayor who is antagonistic to the government is that the Mayor is outside of the Westminster bubble. Inside Parliament, for all the rhetoric and anger inside the Commons that we see on TV, a lot of politicians get on with each other relatively well as they work with each other on a regular basis and know that while strong disagreements exist, the public bluster is often just for the camera.

Unfortunately, when you have a Mayor outside Westminster making the public arguments, but lacking the private consensus building that other MPs have, you can end up with a Mayor who is going to struggle to negotiate with the central government.

This though is in turn not helped by having a Secretary of State for Transport in Grant Shapps who seems equally determined for some reason or other to punish London for the temerity of having been hit hard by the pandemic.

With lots of political rhetoric flying around, both sides seem to be, as it was recently put to me “negotiating by press release”, which is pretty much the worst way of negotiating anything, let alone a long-term funding settlement for TfL.

That TfL could do with some reforms is undeniable. But, looking at it from the outside, in general, it seems to be a pretty well run organisation.

This could be supported, or refuted by the mysterious KPMG report commissioned by the DfT early in the pandemic to look at TfL’s operations. It’s never been published. Even TfL’s bosses have only seen a heavily redacted version.

What is the DfT trying to hide?

If the report was damning about waste at TfL, then the report would have been published, in full, with a big press conference about how the government isn’t going to stand back and let this continue. But it hasn’t been published, and if anything it seems that the DfT would rather like it if everyone forgot it ever commissioned the report.

That suggests KPMG found a well oiled machine at TfL.

(if you have an unredacted copy, my contact details are here)

So why is the government trying to punish London?

This is the great mystery. Yes, there’s a lot of politics at work, and considering that many people think the South is subsidised by Northern taxes, there’s going to be a political cost to any deal offered to London. Wrongly as it happens, but this is reality, and we have to accept that any deal offered to London will cause howls of protest elsewhere.

A government that genuinely wants London to succeed, and in turn generate the tax surplus that the government can pump into its levelling up agenda would be doing everything it can to ensure London’s recovery supports the wider economy. Hindering London’s recovery in part by the practical action of nobbling its public transport, but also the perception that the government is hostile to London sends a very bad message to investors.

We’ve all been shocked by the pandemic, and many of us have had to change plans. In that TfL is not alone, and needs to adapt to changing work practices. As it should be mentioned, do the unions. The unions, while they have a job to do in supporting their members, cannot sit in their own ivory tower pretending nothing has changed either.

But, the government also needs to recognise that when it’s pulling in a surplus of around £35-40 billion a year from London in taxes, to argue that London can’t have a comparatively small portion of that for a few years to help rebuild its shattered transport network is a difficult position to support, politically or economically.

Unfortunately, it’s an argument that both sides seem determined to have, regardless of the consequences.

The Mayor, who is said to relish a fight with opponents seems to be stuck in a Westminster mindset where being seen to fight is as, if not more, important than winning the argument.

The government seems determined to show to the “red wall” that London will be punished, and hope no one notices that fight will eventually mean less money for its eminently supportable levelling up agenda.

London is being held hostage between two warring parties more interested in winning the political fight than in doing what’s right for London, and the UK.

Londoners deserve better than that.

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Article last updated: 18 June 2022 10:33

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35 comments
  1. Owen O'Neill says:

    “even though all the taxes from the estimated £42 billion in GDP growth will go to the central government, not to London.”

    Well that’s not totally accurate because of business rate retention that London has been permitted (which was part of the deal struck as a swap for reducing central government funding of TfL)
    A not insignificant £1.9b in 19/20

  2. E says:

    Although I am not Sadiq’s biggest fan I think you are being unfair to criticise him for complaining about exactly the issues you set out above. It is after all his job to do so and he has little choice but to kick off. You can’t “both sides” this one.

    London is clearly being done over by central govt for several reasons not least because it has a labour mayor (and it won’t do to help him), a city that doesn’t vote conservative by and large (so why waste money on people that don’t vote conservative?), and a popular narrative that the streets are paved with gold and they are stealing from the rest of the country (I know you debunk this above), which suits the government no end in its attempts to shore up its new core voters.

    Either one of four things can solve this

    A change of government
    A change of mayor, which is presumably what the government are effectively trying to engineer by hamstringing the incumbent
    More power to central govt away from the mayor
    More power to the mayor away from central govt

    You allude to these solutions above (eg by suggesting that London should have the power to raise more of its own cash, as indeed should the rest of the country)

    But please don’t fall into the trap of saying “oh it’s all these squabbling politicians isn’t it” when it is one part of one political party that is exclusively at fault here.

    Politics is not the art of compromise, we have an adversarial system so it really is a battle in the court of fickle public opinion

  3. Willsywoo says:

    Let’s not forget Khan made a big point of freezing fares when he was initially elected,thus starving TfL of money for improvements etc. His incompetence on tackling knife crime only adds to the perception that he is incompetent in running TfL

    • Matt Ashby says:

      You say Sadiq Khan has been incompetent at dealing with knife crime, but the number of people injured during knife crimes in London has fallen every year since 2017 (the year after he became mayor). Prior to that it had increased every year since 2012 (the start of Boris Johnson’s second term).

    • Matt Ashby says:

      Apologies, I forgot to include the link to the source for that evidence:
      https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN04304/SN04304.pdf

    • ChrisC says:

      Oh not the fares freeze myth again.

      It was a properly costed proposal and TFL said it was achievable within it’s existing budget and resources.

      And revenue from fares does not fund capital works. It funds day to day operations so it didn’t starve TFL of any investment funds.

      It’s a wonder you didn’t spout the same nonsense as Boris does that Khan increased TFLs debt when in reality it was Boris who massivly added to it and Khan was – until the pandemic hit – reducing it (despite the fares freeze so that also blows your nonsense out of the water)

  4. Sara says:

    Hmmm.. I also think there is a coded message here from central government to TfL which is to say “get yourself more efficient and productive”. And “stop asking us for more money to cover poor management decisions that you are refusing to address”. And that’s not being listened to except for ‘lets cut things’ and that’s not being more efficient and productive. That’s a really poor management approach. Yes, the pandemic caused them untold harm, but for many organisations the pandemic pressures turned existing cracks into chasms. This seems to be what’s happened here? TfL needs a big review of what they do, how they do it and then who needs to be hired to do it. Betcha if they did that there would be far fewer in head office and more on the operational side!

    • Mark E says:

      There usually are Big Expensive Consultant-Lead Reviews every five years or so into TfL – this Government is very keen on giving it’s friends in the Management Consultancy business a top up when they want one – and this article mentions the mysterious KPMG go-around from 2019. I suspect this report didn’t find a lot of “waste” or duplication to “cut” but instead probably pointed out the massively stupid decision made by Osborn/Bozo to reduce TfL’s Operational Subsidy to NOTHING was a disaster waiting to happen, and the Pandemic was that disaster.

      So no wonder DfT had to file it down the back of their Sofa and pretend it never happened.

      There aren’t £500M worth of “inefficiency” to cut. Only meaningful service cuts.

      This Government has all the form on this. Ever since Greyling blew the gaff on “No, we will not turn Suburban Rail Services to TfL/The Mayor because it’s a Labour Mayor and we don’t want him to have that Control and make them better/cheaper to run” – his actual memo was published remember – we’ve known what the score is – this particular bunch of Tories DO NOT want to be politically neutral when dealing with London’s needs and best interests. Many of the reasons why are set out in this article, but one to add is that Boris personally was the architect to MANY disasterous wrong-moves while Mayor (shutting fire stations before Grenfell etc etc) and conniving with the Treasury while he was on the way out the door to poison TfLs finances was about the most egregious. And at the time the supine London/National press said NOTHING about what he had done.

      All it took was a disruption to TfLs fares-income and it’s funding model would collapse in short order. Four years was all that took to happen.

      Boris is personally on the hook for WHY TfL is uniquely in the crap, and he is now equally likely to be driving the Tory Sock Puppet agenda to keep them there. Both to cover his fat arse from the heaps of blame he should be due, but also to “punish” the City he lives in, but that has roundly had enough of him and his grifting.

      Trying to “both sides” it by making Khan seem “equally” to blame for all that is totally disingenuous. You may not like him (the idiot above getting his Tory talking point about “knife crime” into his whatabouting) and you may not vote for him, but he didn’t put in place the Policy that ruined TfLs finances – Bozo did.

      And it’s Khan’s job to do a much better job of calling out those that made the mess AND trying to hold them to account for it.

      This Govt managed to “lose” £11Bn the other week simply by being too incompetent to get the scheduling right on it’s debt-scheduling payments. £11Bn just spaffed for NOTHING. That would have kept TfL funded for the best part of a decade with no ill-effects to the Exchequer.

      Try explaining that the next time some IDIOT is rolling out the “we must be fair to all taxpayers….” Bullshit.

  5. NG says:

    What’s undeniably odd though is how London is being singled out for the level of punishment that isn’t happening to other transport providers.
    AND
    So why is the government trying to punish London?
    A certain “BJ” was mayor of London – he’s moved on & doesn’t need London any more. He also loathes his successor & BJ is known to be both vicious & spiteful.
    Unfortunately, it’s as simple as that – he can point to “depositing” on London as part of his entirely fake & spurious “levelling-up” aganda,

    However, remarkably, TfL managed to turn orthodox thinking on its head and showed that an integrated transport plan can work – And – several attempts have been made to smash that up too – starting with the abolition of the GLC (!) – London’s Buses were to be broken up – it was stopped just in time.
    Wouldn’t put it past them to try again, though.

    You have, so correctly, noted that “levelling-up” actually translates to um, “excreting” all over London, yes?
    – Schapps is a glove (sock?) puppet for BJ, he does not have an independant voice, or so it seems from here …

    – I hate to agree with Wilsywoo, but:
    BJ set a trap for Khan & Khan walked straight into it ( Fares Freeze ) – not the cleverest move, was it?

    Sara
    That might be the current misgovernement’s message, but there is a problem: They are lying (again)
    SEE ALSO
    Mark E’s excellent summary

  6. Temeritas says:

    500million + saving.

    Put solar panels every place you can on the rail way. Tops of stations, railway sidings, verges the lot. Cut that power bill right down and actually make it a green system rather than just ticking the social justice box by buying clean power. Buying in power instead sustainable. Railway leaders are so back to front.

    • ChrisC says:

      And where is the money to pay for all those solar panels and electical wiring and transformers going to come from?? I’m not an expert but I don’t think trains and tubes run off normal household voltages.

      Yes you can ‘spend to save’ but you have to get the cash to spend first and before you generate any actual savings you have to pay off the initial capital outlay.

  7. Dave says:

    And what is the cost of installing all your solar panels? and who pays for it? …bearing in mind the sun don’t shine every day!

  8. mark hughes says:

    Bus fares in London are far to cheap compared to smaller towns, you can travel double the distance for half the price in London although tube fares are probably about right. In last 5-10 years bus fares in London seem to have gone up at a snails pace that can’t continue, this argument that there “has” to be affordable travel is all wrong, tfl needs to be run properly ( mostly has not happened ) but it also cannot be subsidised or run at a loss.

    • ChrisC says:

      please explain how you think TFL isn’t being run properly.

      As Ian writes about the governemt commissioned a report that was suppsed to tell then that.

      It’s telling they havn’t published it. Perhaps because it didn’t fit in with the “inefficiently run” trope.

    • Andy T says:

      Bus fares are too cheap? No they are too high outside London. How is it right that I can drive in a 30mpg car for less than the cost of a Bus ticket in Dartford, even at todays fuel prices?

      Since coming back to London I only drive if its very late or have a special journey, because public transport is sensibly priced, efficient for the most part and often quicker. Busses in Dartford by comparison are unreliable, costly and best avoided if you have access to a car.

      London Bus fares are about right, it’s people outside London that are paying too much.

  9. ChrisC says:

    Ian thanks for the rational (on the whole) article. I agree with much of what you say except about Khan.

    He’s the Mayor of Greater London. A politican – no matter the party of the post holder – with the largest personal electoral mandate in the UK.

    It’s his job to advocate for London to all and sundry. If that means having a go at the government then so be it. Even Tory voters would expect him to be robust. If he wasn’t robust it would be held against him at the next election by the next Tory candiate ‘unlike Khan I’ll be in the governenments face demanding …’

    And Khan and Shapps having the odd slanging match is part of the game. They both know the rules and both play a good game.

    It’s what happens behind the scenes that matters. Even Shapps knows that if he goes too hard on TFL he will have problems with London Tory MPs and voters.

    London currently has 73 MPs (75 once the boundary review is implemented) – more than 10% of the entire total.

    There isn’t a London constituency that isn’t served by TFL (and there are a fair few outside that are as well so the MP reach is much greater). If any of those 73 MPs can’t see how much TFL is the driver of Londons (let alone the UKs) economic and social activity then they really shouldn’t be in Parliament.

  10. Eben Smith says:

    If you were to look at employment opportunities at TfL, you will find many white collar positions advertised, some with really big salaries. I have often wondered if all those jobs are absolutely necessary. There are certainly many station attendants who stare at their phones for many hours each day. On a recent trip to a European city, I couldn’t find any attendants at one of the major rail stations, but my problem was easily solved by speaking remotely to someone on an intercom.
    As with most businesses, I would assume that one of TfL’s greatest expenses is the cost of labour and pensions. They would probably make a fairly large dent in their deficit if they employed fewer people who work more efficiently. To keep wasting money, simply because enforcing change would not have a great enough effect on your bottom line is complete lunacy.

    As far as driverless trains are concerned, they can’t go on strike, and don’t require lifelong pensions. It doesn’t make sense to keep on putting up with the unions holding all of us hostage.

    • ChrisC says:

      True trains can’t go on strike but the people who maintain them and the track and station equipment that enable the trains to be driverless can still go on strke.

      And where is the money going to come from to install all the necessary equipment for driverless trains? It would take billions to install it on the entire network. Are you prepared to put up with years and years of disruption for the equipment to be installed and then tested extensivly?

      If driverless trains are the solution then why didn’t Boris start their installation whilst he was Mayor?

      He was very keen on them whilst on the campaign trail but practically it’s never going to happen on the existing tube network.

  11. MilesT says:

    Relevant to this well argued opinion blog, I have managed to get a Parliamentary Petition set up to protest against bus cuts in London.

    Please sign it (electronically), link below, and share it to others

    If it gets 100,000 signatures then it will be debated in Parliament. That is a communication method that shows the concerns of the people, bypassing the current lack of consensus negotiation between the Mayor and the Transport Secretary

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/618195

    Here is hoping we can get the review stopped via a better funding settlement

  12. Paul Harrison says:

    Myself and a lot of my friends are reaching 60 and collecting our 60+ Oyster Pass (which is different to the Freedom Pass, available from the state pension age).
    However we are all in relatively well paid jobs, so do we really need to get free travel outside the morning peak when we reach 60 ?
    I reckon abolishing it (or retricting it’s use to weekends only) would go along way to saving £500 million….
    Just restricting it’s use to say after midday would save a fair bit, as some people adjust their hours so they travel in to work after the morning peak to avoid having to pay.

    • Alan Simpson says:

      I recall that plans were announced to advance the 60+ age qualification by six months every year until it reaches state pension age at which point recipients will recieve their Freedom Passes instead. Have those plans been dropped?

  13. Chris says:

    A large part of the problem is that central government, unlike in more successful economies such as Germany, doesn’t have separate Finance and Economy departments. This means the same people who oversee raising revenue and trying not to spend it are also in charge of the growing the economy. But, inevitably, short-term book balancing takes priority over long-term economic strategy. So there is no-one to defend subsidising public transport which facilitates greater economic returns that leads to increased tax take. It’s just seen as an expense to cut in order to balance the books.

  14. Michael says:

    The suggestion of a windfall tax on new wfh workers is a bit weird. How about a windfall tax on paid-off homeowners who no longer have to pay a mortgage or rent? Or a windfall tax on owners of chest freezers who can now do a big shop once a month instead of once a week? Or a windfall tax on everyone who entered the workforce in the 90s or earlier who still enjoys a pre-crash salary?

  15. Lizebeth says:

    We can argue the various points of this ad infinitum, but the bottom line is that London Transport needs to run. If it doesn’t, the entire country will be damaged by the ripple effect. The current crisis is leading to a point where LT may not be able to recover.

    If everyone writing in to the Gentle Author would voice their concerns to the Mayor’s Office (as I’ve done) we might start least begin to have the people’s voices heard on this issue?

    Of course, it does all come down to politicians. And these days, no matter what one’s persuasion, most of us agree that politics these days is run by corrupt and uncaring officials. Seems to me, it boils down to turf wars, which is absurd, as these people are elected to serve the greater good?

  16. Maggy says:

    Well said Ian. An excellent article by someone who knows and cares about what he’s talking about. I’ll forward it on to my MP, & also ask DoT where’s that report.

  17. Rob says:

    All political parties should be honest and say collectively, that three regions cited, fund the rest of the UK, and therefore it is in everyone’s interest to nationally increase funding to TFL. As everyone economically benefits.

  18. Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

    For the record, I’d be in favour of driverless busses, just as I’m in favour of driverless cars. Sure, it’d require some tweaks to the algorithm, and there might be problems now and then, but that’s what VR is for. (Let’s just hope there is 4G+ coverage.)

  19. James says:

    The problem with more taxpayer funds of TfL is that much of it will probably go to the members of the RMT, as opposed to improving the service.

  20. Nicholas Bennett says:

    Khan is a chippy, antagonistic character who acts in a blatantly partisan manner compared with Andy Burnham the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester. This doesn’t help in negotiations. Nor does his refusal to countenance the automation of the Underground on the Jubilee, Victoria and now the Elizabeth Line. He is a prisoner of the Unions.

    TfL is top heavy with staff, many on very generous salaries. The number earning over £100k is notable with gold plated pensions. The distribution of free travel passes to friends is another perk that should be stopped.

    The TfL estate needs rationalising and the commercial opportunities it presents needs to be utilised. Network Rail and predecessors have been far more enterprising in this respect.

    • ChrisC says:

      And the likes of Johnson and Shapps aren’t antagonistic or partisian?

      If automation of the tube was such a priority for Boris then why did he do nothing to implement it whilst he was Mayor???

      There is a simple reason – it would cost a fortune to install on existing lines and cause years and years of disruption whilsts lines and stations are closed for the equipment to be installed and tested.

      And any decsion not to make the Elizabeth Line fully automatic was taken long before Khan became Mayor.

      And TFL have been rationalising their estate for years and being far more commercial about it including linking with developers to build homes on Tube station and other sites and selling off non operationally required property.

      There seemingly isn’t a month that goes by without Ian reporting on planning applications (usually because they are denied by local councils!) for such schemes.

  21. nick lewis says:

    This is simple if it was a Tory mayor they would get the money. Its not right but Khan needs to play along a bit more so the funding is provided.
    Anyhow i’ll give you odds on there will be another rollover.

  22. Al says:

    Is it possible to find out how heavily dependent on fares cities like Taipei, Madrid, Berlin and others (Seoul, etc) are whose public transport is highly regarded?

    Also is London unique in being the only city to lack a general tax based subsidy for public transport or are there other cities as well?

    • ianVisits says:

      Yes – go to each of the organisations and read their financial statements — will be in there.

  23. David Winter says:

    Thank you Ian for an informative and useful article. Looking from afar, it looks a right mess in London.

    The comments made show that no-one here knows where £500m pa could be cut out without service impacts.

    The capital intensive nature of public transport – coupled with long lead times for change – precludes many of the suggested changes.

    I’m wondering whether some of the more trendy schemes require substantial cross-subsidy, and could be sold off or closed. The bike scheme and the Dangleway come to mind.

    I’m also wondering whether transferring outer Metropolitan Line services – those beyond the GLA – from LUL to a contracted GBR operator (eg Chiltern) and redirecting them to Marylebone would make any substantial difference. Certainly, fares from outside the GLA should be brought into parity with other operators (eg Epping, Watford, etc) if that hasn’t happened already. But I don’t see £500m p.a. in such peripheral matters.

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