Sadiq Khan's unfunded fares freeze would starve London transport of investment: Only Zac Goldsmith can be trusted with the Tube

 
Patrick McLoughlin
The Queen Visits The Crossrail Station Site At Bond Street
The new Elizabeth Line will add the equivalent of Berlin's entire subway system to London (Source: Getty)

When Londoners go to the polls on 5 May, they’ll be deciding who should run one of the biggest and most complex transport systems in the world.

Over half of all bus journeys in England happen in the capital. The Tube handles 1.3bn journeys a year, which is like everyone in China taking one journey each. Once the Elizabeth Line opens, it will be as if we’ve added the entire Berlin subway system to London.

London’s commuters and the businesses they work in need that system to work, day in day out. But the capital is growing fast, and if we don’t invest, our transport network will struggle to cope.

I’ve spent years working side by side with Boris and it’s been a fascinating experience: together we’ve started upgrading the Tube network, done the heavy lifting on Crossrail, and made strides to prepare London for the electric car revolution.

But it’s only been possible because I’ve worked with a mayor who is totally committed to securing that investment. And in the choice facing Londoners next month, there’s only one mayoral candidate who fits the bill.

Zac Goldsmith is the only candidate who’s put forward a fully-costed Action Plan for Greater London that will grow the transport network. It includes increasing capacity by a third at key pressure points on the Tube, extending the Croydon Tramlink to Sutton and the Overground to Barking Riverside, and delivering Crossrail 2.

This new infrastructure is vital, not just to keep London moving, but also to get London building. Taken together it will unlock the land for 270,000 badly-needed homes.

But the most important feature of Zac’s plan is that you can trust him to actually deliver it.

London only keeps 7 per cent of the taxes it raises, so the next mayor will have to work with me to secure the funding and powers to get shovels in the ground. And I know Zac’s a man I can do business with.

We’ve already worked together on new powers for the mayor to have a greater role in suburban rail, as well as the first stage of funding for Crossrail 2. I’ve seen for myself that he delivers on his commitments. He won’t use the mayoralty to grandstand or score political points. He’ll use it to get things done.

There could not be a clearer contrast with his opponent. Since the start of this campaign, Sadiq Khan hasn’t asked for any meetings with me, or shown any interest at all in working with us on transport.

But I’m more concerned by what Khan is actually proposing for transport.

His transport promise – a four years fares policy – would cost £1.9bn to deliver, but he doesn’t have a credible plan to pay for it. The savings he’s put forward are either made up or not savings at all. Scrapping the Emirates Cable Car would cost £20m, for example.

The consequence will be Labour’s traditional remedy: council tax hikes. And if he’s expecting the UK taxpayer to bail him out, I can tell him now it’s not going to happen. Central government invests billions in London transport. In return, we expect the mayor to budget responsibly.

So there’s a very clear choice on transport at this election. It’s a choice between a network that’s able to grow, or a network that’s starved of investment. Between more jobs and house-building, or less.

Decent transport matters, not just because of the jobs and the growth it supports, but because it has such an impact on our quality of life.

It’s about less time stood on cold platforms, waiting for a late and overcrowded train. It’s about making sure you can get home in time for dinner with the kids after a hard day’s work.

There is an opportunity to elect a mayor who wants better journeys for Londoners. That’s what Zac Goldsmith is standing for, and I’m proud to give him my support.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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