TfL calls for second bailout amid coronavirus pandemic

TfL calls for second bailout amid coronavirus pandemic

Transport for London (TfL) will need an extra £2 billion in this financial year to balance its books amid the ongoing financial hit from coronavirus.

The transport authority, which runs the Underground, buses and is responsible for major roads in the capital, released an emergency budget for the rest of the year – and will ask the Government for a second bailout to cover costs.

Ministers stumped up £1.6 billion in May to keep trains and buses running until October after fare revenues, by far the biggest source of TfL funding, fell 90 per cent during the pandemic.

Now bosses want another £1.6 billion, which together with £400 million carried over from the first half of the year will plug the financial gap.

The network said today that fares have bounced back faster than expected, making more than £100 million more than early predictions – and passenger numbers continue to climb.

But uncertainty about how fast commuters will return to the capital has created a huge margin of error in the budget – revenue this year could vary by almost £750 million.

Investment has been slashed, with projects including Hammersmith Bridge repairs and the Bakerloo line extension under threat.

Disabled access to eight Underground stations will also be shelved without extra funding, TfL warned.

Other projects at risk include:

  • A new DLR station at the Royal Docks in Newham;
  • A signalling upgrade on the Piccadilly line to increase the frequency of trains;
  • The West London orbital line;
  • The Sutton tram link;
  • Upgrades to South Kensington station;
  • Work to improve air quality and reduce noise on the Tube.

Work that is well underway, or that helps tackle immediate priorities during the Covid-19 outbreak still has the green light.

  • Protected schemes include:
  • The Ultra Low Emission Zone extension to the North and South Circular roads;
  • The Northern line extension;
  • The upgrade of Bank station;
  • New trains for the Piccadilly line;
  • Silvertown road tunnel;
  • 4G on the Tube.

It comes after Crossrail yesterday announced further delays, which could see costs on the £18 billion project grow further.

The revised TfL budget said Crossrail leaders are “continuing their work to understand the financial impact on the programme”.

Up to £650 million of funding for overspend on the scheme is yet to be secured, and discussions with the Department for Transport continue.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said coronavirus has had a “devastating impact” on the transport authority’s finances.

“Prior to the pandemic TfL were on course to reduce their operating deficit by 86 per cent and increase their cash balances by 31 per cent,” he explained.

“The network’s revised budget will keep services running safely and support London’s recovery from the pandemic – should sufficient funding be provided by the Government in the months ahead.”

New TfL chief Andy Byford said the pandemic has shown that the current funding model “simply doesn’t work when faced with such a shock”.

“Inevitably, very difficult choices have had to be made about the pace at which projects can be funded and completed,” he said.

“In the current climate, some projects will have to be paused.”

Harrow Times | Local News