Delivering London’s Transport Strategy

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th June 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

Are you confident you can find the funding to deliver your Transport Strategy?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is a bit difficult. My Transport Strategy remains the right long-term approach to developing the transport network in London over the next two decades. It has the support of Londoners and it is now more important than ever that we work to achieve its aim.

The pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of helping Londoners to travel healthily, sustainably and efficiently on foot, by cycle and by using public transport. It has also brought into sharper focus the need to tackle the unacceptable levels of vehicle emissions and congestion caused by having too many cars on the road.

That is why I am determined to press ahead with implementing my Transport Strategy, including through the London Recovery Programme and by fulfilling the commitments I made in my manifesto. I am excited about what we can achieve over the next three years. This includes improvements to streets to enable more journeys and better access to our high streets by foot, bike and bus, and major rail improvements that will open to passengers this year and next, like the Elizabeth line, the Northern line extension and the Barking Riverside extension to the Overground network.

However, it is clear that proper financial support from the Government for TfL will be absolutely vital to achieving these aims, and to support London and the UK’s wider economic recovery. TfL’s Financial Sustainability Plan shows the need not only for immediate COVID-related financial support, but also for Government investment each year beyond 2023. This is essential for TfL to continue to operate a world-class public transport system, help to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, tackle obesity, improve accessibility, build new homes and support the capital’s economy. That is why I am working so hard to make the case to the Government that sustainable long-term funding for TfL will be money well spent.

On 18 May [2021] it was agreed to extend TfL’s previous funding agreement to tomorrow, 28 May, to allow for discussions to conclude.

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. First of all, congratulations on being re-elected. I voted for you - as a second preference - and I know that contributed in the final round. I look forward to discussing some of the ideas from my manifesto with you so that you can make some use of them.

Today I was planning to discuss the terms of the expected new deal for TfL, particularly walking and cycling funding, but you do not have a deal yet. Instead, I would like to ask about other sources of revenue and what has been said about them, then what our options are.

In January [2021] TfL sent to the Government its Financial Sustainability Plan on time, but on Friday at the TfL Programmes and Investment Committee, the Commissioner [of TfL] said that the Government had provided no response to it, just an acknowledgement of receipt. Can I just confirm that that is still the case today?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Firstly, apologies to the other two parties, but I also gave my second preference to Siân and to the Greens, which explains your tally for so many second preferences.

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

Thanks very much.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

So far we have received no formal response or any response to the Plan we submitted by the deadline.

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

That really worries me. We have an extension until tomorrow, but we still have no response and you cannot tell me any more about that, presumably. I will move on to my next question.

In the Financial Sustainability Plan, a boundary charge was suggested as an interim step. Given discussions that have taken place over recent months, we kind of all agree that a single day-long charge for coming into London from outside is a bit of a blunt instrument, and it certainly looks like the Government does not support a boundary charge, either. If nobody wants a charge like that, then it is the Government that needs to tide us over until we can develop something fairer.

Do you agree? Has the Government conceded that in your discussions so far?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is probably not sensible to give a running commentary on negotiations with the Government, but it is a big issue. Either we have to massively reduce expenditure or find other ways to raise revenues. Extending the Congestion Charge to the North Circular and the South Circular is not on, either. It is navigating our way through the short-term financial challenges because we are not going to get to pre-pandemic levels for some time. To give you an idea of where we are, the Tube numbers yesterday were at about 40% of what they were pre-pandemic and bus numbers at around 61%. There is a big gap between what we have and what we need to run TfL. We have to keep running a full service, otherwise people will not come back. It is a challenge.

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

Finally, your trips to the North have been really interesting to see. Are you lobbying for a package deal of similar medium-term arrangements for London and other cities as a kind of combination with other mayors? It does look a bit like you are doing that.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

One of the interesting things is what a hotchpotch arrangement there is between different regions and central Government. We are hoping that the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) provides an opportunity to put us all in the same place. One of the things we did this week - there are 10 of us metro mayors across the country now - was to get together to discuss what we will be doing together. That includes “levying up”; it includes recovery; it includes zero carbon. It also includes conversations around the CSR and what bids we put in as a group as well as what we put in as individual mayors.

Photo of Siân Berry Siân Berry Green

Excellent, thank you very much. I very much support that. It is an approach I have been asking for for a while.