London’s recovery cannot be jeopardized by a lack of funding for TfL

Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 15.38

Amid the many encouraging views of London’s recovery after Covid-19, it is ironic that one of the most warming was the sight of 600 lucky souls leaving the capital yesterday morning. Two flights, BA-001 and VS3, took off from Heathrow for JFK at 8:51, the day the United States reopened its borders. As the airlines put it, the British are back. Not before time.

Let’s hope that in its own small way it marks London’s own resurgence from lockdown and returns to the top table of global cities. To do that, we need more support from the government, which sits in the heart of our city – but which sometimes feels totally separated from it.

In a little over a month’s time, we’ll find out how seriously the central government is really about ensuring that ‘up in level’ does not mean pulling London down. Transport for London has always had a problem with funding; more dependent on ticket revenue than pretty much any other major transportation system in the big cities. In good times – such as 2015, when the then mayor Boris Johnson gave up the grant of £ 1 billion. from Whitehall – is good news for taxpayers. In bad times, such as in the midst of a series of pandemic-induced lockdowns, it is very bad news for everyone.

Transport for London has asked the Department of Transport – and thus the Ministry of Finance – for funds to get it through the next 18 months of recovery, along with pointing to a host of cost-saving measures it has launched since the start of the pandemic. Instead of the three temporary rescue operations it has received so far, it is now time for a medium- to long-term financing settlement that gives TfL the chance to plan and respond to the changing post-pandemic city – and serve the visitors who are finally started to come back, as well as the business that stuck. Failure to do so would be a betrayal of the city that continues to control the economy – no matter how much some in Whitehall wish it were not.

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