TfL's ongoing battle with the £500m funding gap

Transport for London (TfL) still faces a £500m funding gap, in spite of having shown progress towards financial stability.

The revised budget was published this week and outlined it will cost £1.9bn to keep London’s transport network running for the full financial year, down from the £2.7bn predicted in March.

TfL has narrowed this down to spending deferrals, operational savings and use of its own money. 

But with £1.4bn of this having been secured through government emergency funding packages, TfL still requires an additional £500 million to reach its funding requirement for the period following December 11, 2021, when the most recent agreement expires.

Following the publication, Mayor Sadiq Khan, the chair of TfL, called on ministers to treat the network “as they do the private rail operators and commit to a long-term funding agreement.”

The mayor went on to explain that not only is a revised agreement crucial for London, but also for the rest of the country.

The pandemic had devastating impacts on the network as it does not receive regular government funding, with most of TfL’s revenue coming from fares (70%).

Despite restrictions lifting, the ridership across TfL’s service on weekdays is only at 54% of pre-pandemic levels and has left the network on the brink of bankruptcy.

The revised budget also discussed several redevelopment programmes.

Some include the ongoing work necessary to complete Crossrail, which is set to open in the first half of 2022, consequently adding 10% extra to central London’s rail capacity.

Others involve improvements at Tottenham Hale and Bank, a ticket hall expansion at Elephant & Castle, and a Northern Line extension to Battersea.

But long-term funding is necessary to complete these schemes, and government investment could also help deliver priorities such as decarbonisation.

The revised budget, which has been submitted for approval by the TfL board, assumes no material change to service levels on rail, buses, or the underground.

Programme Director for Connectivity at London First, Adam Tyndall, said “it is good news that TfL hasn’t been required to make any further cuts to services. Ridership is slowly increasing and maintaining services is an important part of helping commuters feel safe and confident as they return.

He added, “with the current funding deal expiring in December and the Spending Review due this year, it is time for TfL and the Government to work together to create a long-term financial solution that instils confidence in the network and enables investment in essential projects.”

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