Friday 15 May 2020 4:52 pm

Central London's streets to be car-free under new mayoral plan

Miles of London’s streets will be car-free under a new plan announced by the mayor to encourage cycling and walking and to help the transport system cope with social distancing.

Sadiq Khan said the plan would transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free areas in any capital city.

“Covid-19 poses the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in TfL’s [Transport for London] history,” he said.

Read more: Sadiq Khan: London transport fares will increase after £1.6bn TfL bailout

“It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.”

Passenger numbers on London’s Underground network have fallen 95 per cent since the UK went into lockdown in March, while the number of bus journeys has fallen by 85 per cent.

Earlier, TfL said it had secured £1.6bn in government funding to cover a shortfall in revenue until October.

TfL has said the requirement to maintain a two-metre distance from other people will mean buses and the tube will only be able to carry 13-15 per cent of the normal number of passengers even when full services have been restored.

Khan said many more Londoners would therefore have to walk and cycle to keep the city moving.

Read more: Congestion charge set to rise 30 per cent after TfL bailout

Streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo and Old Street and Holborn may be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists, city hall said.

Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge could also be restricted to people walking, cycling and buses only, with pavements widened to enable people to safely travel between busy railway stations and their workplaces.

London’s congestion charge, payable by vehicles driving in a central zone, and ultra low emission zone will be reintroduced on Monday, the office said.

Under the proposals, the congestion charge could increase to £15 a day from £11.50 next month and the hours of operation extended as part of a package of temporary changes, it said.

The emergency funding deal with the government came with significant strings attached including increasing tube and bus fares and government oversight of TfL’s finances and board.

Read more: TfL agrees £1.6bn bailout deal with government

Khan today said he had “no choice” but to accept the offer, which was the “only deal the government put on the table”, in order to keep services running.

In March, Khan said if he was re-elected mayor he would have to end the four-year freeze on tube fares due to TfL’s financial situation.

However, he had pledged to continue with the freeze on bus fares.

Describing the deal this morning, which consists of a £1.1bn grant and a £505m loan, as a “sticking plaster”, he warned that the cost would be felt be Londoners:

“The government is, in effect, making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19.”

“They want fares to go up next January – ending the four years fares freeze I delivered after the last election.

Yesterday, Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey blasted Khan for financial mismanagement of TfL.

“Sadiq Khan has been exposed as being such an incompetent mayor, that the government have had to take control of the TfL board and its finances as a condition of the bailout that he had to beg them for,” Bailey said.