Transport for London (TfL) has been dealt a fresh blow to its finances after Chris Grayling stepped in to block plans increasing motorist penalties in the capital, set to provide millions in extra revenue for the organisation.
In correspondence seen by City A.M., London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to the transport secretary in December to notify him of TfL's proposal to increase the penalty charge for motorists breaking road rules in London from £130 to £160, or £65 to £80 for early payment.
Offences resulting in fines include driving in bus lanes and parking offences.
As well as looking to improve congestion and traffic troubles, the plans were set to bring in more revenue.
The proposed increase in the penalty charge notices by TfL was estimated to provide an additional £80m in income over TfL's business plan period from 2016/17 to 2021/22.
TfL is looking for ways to boost its finances, as it battles an unexpected slip in passenger numbers and the loss of government funding. A recent London Assembly report noted TfL passenger numbers and fares revenue were "well behind budget".
Khan said TfL had become concerned that the existing charge had become an ineffective deterrent to poor driving, and that the number of motorists issued with more than one penalty charge notice was rising.
The proposed rise came after a public consultation, but the transport secretary has intervened to block the increase in charges.
In a response sent last month, Grayling said the proposal was a "significant rise" and needed careful consideration in light of "the financial pressures experienced by many motorists across the capital". He said figures supplied did not support TfL's claim that the £130 notice had become "an inadequate deterrent".
Having considered the evidence carefully, I do not accept that there has been a consistent deterioration in driver behaviour, and consequently I do not agree that it is necessary or reasonable to increase the penalty charge level by 23 per cent.
I have come to the view that the proposed TLRN [TfL road network] penalty charge level would be excessive, and I have therefore decided to intervene.
TfL officials are in discussions with the DfT about next steps.
A spokesperson for the mayor said:
Drivers who don’t play by the rules by driving in bus lanes or blocking important routes are increasing congestion, while causing serious hazards for other road users – including cyclists and pedestrians.
Overall, the number of PCNs [penalty charge notices] has increased in recent years, with the evidence showing more offences being committed by repeat offenders. The current fine is simply not enough of a deterrent for a small number of drivers who are increasingly flouting the rules.