Take TfL off Sadiq Khan’s hands amid Tube strikes, says London MP

A

prominent London MP on Thursday said the Government should consider taking Transport for London out of Sadiq Khan’s hands because of the ongoing Tube strikes and proposed bus cuts.

Nickie Aiken, the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said the Government should consider stepping in to prevent further harm to Londoners.

On Tuesday there was the fourth network-side shutdown of the Tube since March due to a RMT walkout over the loss of 600 station staff posts and the threat to TfL staff pensions.

On Thursday, Mr Khan blamed the Government for a lack of funding that has resulted in the proposals to axe 22 bus routes and reduce frequencies on almost 60 more.

Ms Aiken, a former leader of Westminster council, told the Standard: “Sadiq has proven he is not fit to run TfL. I think it’s time that the Department for Transport looked at taking it off him. We can’t go on like this. Something has got to give.

“Every few months Sadiq goes cap in hand, without any proper strategy to turn TfL’s finances around apart from cuts to services. I have run a £3bn organisation. I know what it is like to face Government cuts, but you find efficiencies and new ways of working.

“I have been inundated with concerns from constituents, particularly the over 60s, about the bus plans that Sadiq has got to cut their bus or change it so dramatically that they will have to get two or three buses to get to their destination.”

Mr Khan, who was being quizzed on the bus plans at Mayor’s Question Time today, said the proposals to cut four per cent of services were just the “tip of the iceberg” and could lead to an overall 18 per cent cut – meaning the loss of 100 routes – unless a new Government bailout could be agreed.

But he warned that with the current deal expiring on Friday, there was not enough time for TfL to properly consider a new deal. “It beggars belief that with over 24 hours to go we have got no offer,” he said.

More than 9,000 Londoners have responded to plans published by Transport for London earlier this month to cut the central London bus network. The loss of 16 day or 24-hour routes and six night bus services has been proposed.

The proposals – which follow Government orders to reduce TfL’s running costs – have sparked fury from central London Tory MPs concerned at the loss of key routes such as the 11, 14, 24 and 74.

It came as an alliance of London business organisations pleaded with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to provide a new bailout for TfL amid concern of a “precipitous fall in the Government’s support for TfL”.

TfL’s current deal runs out on Friday and it is seeking a further £900m to keep Tube and bus services running this financial year, plus a long-term capital deal to repair crumbling roads and bridges and modernise the Underground.

Mr Khan, who was appearing at Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall on Thursday morning, was facing questions from Labour and the Lib-Dems about the impact of the bus cuts.

London Assembly members fear the loss of so many routes will affect poorer Londoners disproportionately and say it comes as demand for bus travel continues to rise – reaching 82 per cent of pre-pandemic levels last week and 86 per cent at the weekend.

Elly Baker, a Labour member of the assembly who was questioning Mr Khan, told the Standard: “If we cut them, we are going to get into this spiral of decline in ridership. I blame the Government.

“I don’t think overall we need to trim [the bus network] back. I don’t believe we need fewer buses. We need more buses, particularly when we are looking at outer London.”

TfL officials have privately warned assembly members that the proposed cuts only constitute a 1.6 per cent reduction in bus kilometres – suggesting more will have to be found to hit the four per cent target.

But TfL sources say that the four per cent target relates to the cost of running the bus network, and that the proposals – plus other cuts already made – should be sufficient.

The plans are being opposed by Tory MPs including Greg Hands, Ms Aiken and Felicity Buchan.

The union Unite told Mr Hands it supported his campaign to save the 11, 14 and 74. It said 48 drivers at the Stockwell bus garage would have to be transferred elsewhere “or lose their employment” if the 11 was axed.

Mr Hands, the Tory MP for Chelsea and Fulham and climate change minister, told the Standard: “Sadiq Khan is proposing to butcher crucial bus routes for my constituents and hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

“He has been given four Government bailouts totalling £5 billion and still he wants to end routes like the 11 which have been in place for a century or more. As climate change minister, we need Khan to promoting public transport – not savaging it.”

The bus routes under threat of the axe are: 4, 11, N11, 12, 14, 16, N16, 24, 31, N31, 45, 72, N72, 74, N74, 78, 242, N242, 349, 521, C3 and D7.

The letter from the London Property Alliance on behalf of groups such as the London Chamber of Commerce and London First, says: “We see investment in TfL as pivotal to the Government’s Levelling Up agenda and to kick-starting a stuttering economy as we face unprecedented economic headwinds. The risk of recession from the latest economic data is stark.

“Our members have witnessed a precipitous fall in the government’s support for TfL with increasing concern. We are concerned that this approach is at odds with sound transport and economic policy.”

Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said there had not been any breakthrough on securing a new Government bailout. “They’re breathing down our necks on any and every bit of expenditure,” he told TfL’s finance committee yesterday.

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said: “The mayor is furious on behalf of Londoners that TfL is having to consider changes to its bus network because of conditions attached by the Government to their emergency funding deals which were only needed as a consequence of the pandemic. These conditions made clear the need to make substantial savings and included proposals for TfL to reduce service levels on London’s bus network by four per cent.

“The route changes being consulted on by TfL are intended to cause as little disruption to passengers as possible, while still making the savings required by the Government.

“If Government force London to enter a managed decline scenario by failing to provide a good funding deal when the current one expires, up to 18 per cent of bus services would need to be cut, which equates to more than 100 routes. This would have a catastrophic effect on London’s transport network and we are doing everything we can to avoid this scenario.”

Leave a Comment