A Safe Transport Network

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 2nd August 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Elly Baker Elly Baker Labour

How is TfL ensuring the transport network is safe, despite the ongoing lack of long-term Government funding?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The safety of Londoners and visitors on our public transport network is a top priority for TfL. The past two years have been some of the most difficult in our history and I am deeply grateful to TfL staff, trade unions and TfL supply chain teams, who adapted and worked tirelessly to keep the network safe, clean and reliable, despite facing significant financial challenges. TfL has continued its work towards achieving my Vision Zero goal on London’s road and public transport networks. When TfL runs services, safety is always the number-one priority and no trains or buses would be allowed to run with any outstanding safety concerns.

However, TfL also manages a huge range of other safety work including our Vision Zero and road danger reduction programmes. Without long-term and adequate Government funding, TfL has to prioritise its activities. TfL has been able to protect £10 million for Healthy Streets schemes to tackle the highest-priority safety interventions on the road network. TfL also continues to fund cameras, customer safety campaigns and projects for bus, cycling, walking and driver safety to ensure that passengers and staff remain safe.

Despite the disruption of the pandemic, TfL has successfully delivered several major projects including the upgrade of Bank Station, Cycleway 4, the Northern line extension, walking and cycling improvements at Bishopsgate and Hammersmith gyratory, enhancing step-free access and of course the launch of the Elizabeth line. All new projects are completed to the highest safety standards. In response to the pandemic, TfL enhanced its cleaning regime across its stations and vehicles, including using new technologies to deliver a transport environment that is cleaner than ever before.

However, sustained, long-term Government funding is vital for the coming years if we are to avoid the managed decline of London’s transport network, which would see huge reductions in investment. I am very concerned about how much the lack of funding will impact our ability as a city to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from our transport network, along with our ability to decarbonise, improve air quality, increase active travel and support a shift towards more sustainable roads.

Photo of Elly Baker Elly Baker Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for that comprehensive response. Hopefully, welcome to the portion of the meeting where we actually ask some more substantive questions.

It is really pleasing to hear you outline how safety continues to be a priority, but I would like to ask about a couple of specific areas. Having appropriate numbers of staff on hand at Tube stations is crucial for personal safety, for the safety of the running of the network and for passenger confidence, as well as, crucially, for accessibility for so many Londoners. How do you think TfL will be able to keep London Underground passengers safe when they are having to look at potentially cutting 500 to 600 frontline station staffing posts as a result of Government financial demands?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thanks for that question. It is a big concern that I had as well when we were to consider this. I am particularly mindful of the concern - and I know you have raised it - of women not feeling safe and girls not feeling safe, and the assistance often disabled passengers need when they turn up at a station. It is worth reminding ourselves that we have basically a turn-up-and-go system, unlike National Rail and other public transport.

The proposals that TfL have put forward in relation to the posts being lost are those posts that do not affect any issue around safety. I have had to be reassured that there will still be staff available at stations at all times to assist those who need assistance but also for issues around safety. There is a particular concern, you will be aware, of having staff at stations where there is deep underground for obvious reasons. That is just the minimum, by the way. We do more than that. We are doing more than the minimum. For every post, there is consideration about its impact on safety.

The other point I would make, just to reassure you as I have been reassured, is, on top of the TfL staff, do not forget there are more than 2,500 police and police community support officers, as well as enforcement officers, around the estate. On top of that, separately, there are of course the British Transport Police (BTP) officers as well.

I am grateful for you raising it. Please continue to raise any particular concerns you have around particular stations, but I have been reassured that the posts we are talking about - and they are posts, not jobs, by the way, not people losing their jobs - should not lead to our public transport being any less safe.

Photo of Elly Baker Elly Baker Labour

Thank you. I am sure we will continue to look at it. Finally, I just want to move on to a subject that is very close to my heart, which is railway safety. As part of the Government-led cuts under the cover of Great British Railways reforms, Network Rail wants to cut 2,500 safety-critical maintenance posts. Those are posts that are there to make sure the network runs safety. I am really concerned about the safety of the railway in London, especially as so many Londoners rely on our suburban rail, especially in areas where the Tube does not go. Do you share that concern? Are you concerned about the future of the railway?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I am fully aware that we are currently being prosecuted because of the tram accident in Croydon. Safety issues are raised as a consequence of what we have discovered since the accident in Croydon. Just to reassure you, every time I speak to the Commissioner [of Transport for London], the first thing we discuss is safety. It began with the previous Commissioner in relation to safety running through everything we do.

In the heatwave over the last week, I have learned more about the dangers of rail tracks buckling because of hot temperatures. I now know about the impact on overhead cables and signalling because of the concerns TfL has around the consequences on safety if it does not get this right. One of the reasons why TfL reduced the speed of trains - it did not need to - was because it was concerned about safety if they were going too fast and there were issues with buckling and stuff. That is at the fore of our minds.

Clearly, I cannot speak for Network Rail. No safety-critical job would ever be lost from TfL whilst I am Mayor, but for the current Commissioner and the previous Commissioner, the two I have worked with closely, it runs through the DNA of everything they do. Even at TfL Board meetings, we encourage non-executive members to raise issues of safety they have experienced or know about during the entire course of the Board meeting or at various committee meetings as well.

You are right to raise it, though. When I first became elected Mayor, there was a big concern around the staff lost in the previous year because of the ticket offices being closed down and staff being lost. However, we will keep an eye on this, and we are making sure we do what we can to keep public transport in London run by us as safe as it can be.

Photo of Elly Baker Elly Baker Labour

Thanks, Mr Mayor. Thank you, Chair.