Labour’s London Assembly planning spokesperson has claimed that much-needed new homes will remain unbuilt and potential jobs unfilled without long-term investment for Transport for London (TfL).
The planned transport infrastructure which supports building houses and creates work has ground to a halt as London’s transport network awaits a fair funding deal from the government, according to Sakina Sheikh.
At a Mayor’s Question Time meeting last Thursday (February 24), Sheikh said she was ‘very concerned’ about the refusal to provide long-term funding to TfL. She also said she was ‘frankly disgusted’ that the government seems to be ‘playing political football’ with the situation.
The Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020 saw a huge 97% drop in Tube passengers and an 86% fall in Londoners using the bus network. As a result of successive lockdowns, these levels have struggled to fully recover since, even as people return to the office, leading to a significant impact on TfL fares income.
The Department for Transport recently announced a fourth short-term emergency settlement to keep TfL afloat until June, but the deal has been underpinned by a range of conditions, including savings of up to £800 million over the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years, as well as raising between £500m and £1 billion of additional revenue per year from 2023.
With these figures in mind, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the TfL Commissioner have warned that the lack of a multi-year funding agreement could force London’s transport network to fall into a ‘managed decline’ scenario. This could see tube services being cut by 9% and bus services reduced by 18%, and could also lead to the delay and cancellation of key infrastructure projects and job losses.
According to Labour’s London Assembly, a lack of government funds has already led to the planned Bakerloo Line extension, with its 25,000 new homes and 15,000 jobs, being put on hold, as has the development of up to 200,000 new homes across London and the South East that Crossrail 2 would spur.
It also adds that work on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Thamesmead extension, with 20,000 new homes and the creation of 8,000 jobs, were delayed due to the long-term government funding uncertainty.
In response to Sheikh, Khan agreed that the lack of a deal was a ‘big problem’ for long-term infrastructure plans and for improving stations that would allow housing nearby, for example a further 6,000 homes planned for Colindale station in Barnet.
Khan claimed that as soon as TfL gets a long-term deal, work could start again, but warned projects now face years of delays as the ‘knock on consequences of the short-term deals are going to be seen for the next five or six years’.
In January last year, the Mayor said that since 2017, TfL and its partners have already started building nearly 1,500 homes with more than 5,500 more having planning approval, and planning applications for a further 2,000 submitted.
“It’s time for the government to pull its finger out and give TfL the funding package it needs in the wake of the pandemic,” Sheikh said.
“The series of short-term sticking plaster deals announced by Ministers so far have held back London’s economic recovery,” she added.
“The lack of a long-term capital deal will not just result in significant tube and bus service cuts, but also lead to the delay or cancelation of key infrastructure projects across the capital that will unlock thousands more homes and jobs.”
She concluded: “Londoners did the right thing during consecutive lockdowns and stayed away from public transport, it’s outrageous that they should be punished for this.”