A controversial £1.6 billion Government bailout of Transport for London was announced on Friday, allowing buses and tubes to continue running for the four and a half months but bringing with it a number of changes to services and prices.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has stated “this was not the deal I wanted,” but said it was the only deal on the table, leaving him with no choice to keep TfL running.
Fares income has fallen by 90% in the last two months as people followed advice to stay at home, but Khan says the Department for Transport are “making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19.”
The department said it included a series of caveats as part of the funding package “in order to safeguard services in the future,” so here’s a rundown of what’s changing.
- Free travel for children is to be temporarily halted, and over 60s and those with disabilities will only be allowed to travel for free outside peak hours.
- Fares on buses – scrapped to help protect drivers from Covid-19 – will be reintroduced, and the congestion charge for people driving into the centre of the city will resume.
- Also included in the measures is that London’s congestion charge will be reinstated from Monday, with the monthly fee rising from £11.50 to £15. Charges for driving into the centre of the capital are normally only enforced on weekdays between 7am and 6pm, but the mayor is planning to extend this to between 7am and 10pm, seven days a week, as of June 22.
- London’s congestion charge and ultra low emission zone have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but will both be reintroduced on Monday. NHS and care home staff who work in the congestion charge area will be reimbursed for journeys related to tackling the virus, including their commutes.
- Finally, whilst single fares have been frozen ever since Khan took over in 2016, TfL will now introduce above-inflation fare rises from next year.
These changes will take place “as soon as practicable”, the DfT said.
The amendments are temporary, although TfL agreed to review the congestion charge as part of the bailout.
Sadiq Khan said: “We have just reached agreement with the Government on a funding package to allow TfL to run public transport safely in London for the next four and a half months.
“This was necessary because Covid-19 has had a catastrophic impact on TfL’s finances – as it has on every transport provider in the UK.
“I want to be completely honest and upfront with Londoners – this is not the deal I wanted.
“Fares income has fallen by 90% in the last two months because Londoners have done the right thing and stayed at home – so there simply isn’t enough money coming in to pay for our services.
“We are running as many services as humanly possible given the number of staff off sick, shielding or self-isolating. As staff are returning to work we are increasing services as fast as possible to get back to 100 per cent. From Monday we aim to run around 85 per cent of buses, 75 per cent of Tubes, restore the Circle line and re-open some of the 37 closed stations.
The DfT said the agreement means TfL will increase service levels “as soon as possible to ensure people can follow social distancing guidelines while on the network”.
Mr Khan said London needs to keep the number of people using public transport “as low as possible” to avoid a spike in Covid-19 cases, but warned that journeys previously made by Tube and bus cannot be replaced with car usage as “roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar”.
Over the past couple of weeks, TfL have been working with the London boroughs to encourage active travel, with widened streets, new cycle routes and walking/cycling only streets part of the plan.
Liam Griffin, chief executive of London minicab firm Addison Lee, said increasing the charge and extending the charging hours would “almost double” the weekly costs for a driver.
“This move from TfL shows a patent disregard for a profession that has done so much to keep London moving during the crisis and will have a critical role to play in supporting London as it returns to growth,” he said.