The capital’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR) will be under serious threat of long-term decline without a sustainable funding deal for Transport for London (TfL), a group of London MPs have warned.
The six MPs, all Labour members in East or South East London constituencies, wrote to transport secretary Grant Shapps today to say “some of the [DLR] trains are now close to 30 years old” and that failure to give TfL a long-term deal means “there is a risk that the existing contracts for new trains may have to be unpicked”.
The letter was signed by Rushanara Ali, Apsana Begum, Lyn Brown, Vicky Foxcroft, Matthew Pennycook and Stephen Timms.
TfL has received four short-term bailouts worth more than £4bn from central government since the start of Covid-19, after the transport body’s revenues plummeted by more than 90 per cent during the first lockdown.
The latest funding package runs out in just five days, with mayor of London Sadiq Khan warning that TfL services will likely need to be cut if a deal can’t be closed.
He said this could include shutting down an entire Tube line, after a report from TfL last month said there will be a £6.6bn black hole in its finances between 2022 and 2055.
The six London MPs said these cuts would have devastating effects on the DLR and the East London communities that rely on the network.
They said if TfL is forced to oversee cuts to the network that “the existing contracts for new [DLR] trains may have to be unpicked”.
“Without the additional trains planned as part of this upgrade, new jobs and homes in east London would be at risk, particularly in parts of the Royal Docks and the Isle of Dogs, where the DLR is the main transport option,” the letter read.
“It goes without saying that supporting growth in this area is absolutely critical. Without government funding, the DLR extension to Beckton Riverside and Thamesmead is also at risk of not going ahead.”
It comes as 83 London business, charities and universities this weekend urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide TfL with a long-term funding deal to safeguard the capital’s future economic prospects.
They said that without “sufficient financial support to deal with the continued effects of the pandemic we may soon fall back into the cycle of decline that plagued the capital before the creation of Transport for London”.
Bosses from Eurostar International, London City Airport, Landsec, the New West End Company, Imperial College London, the London School of Economics and the Centre for London were among the singatories to the letter to Sunak.
“London’s economic success –and the substantial and tangible benefits it delivers for the wider UK – cannot be taken for granted,” they said.
A government spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn in emergency funding to Transport for London.
“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the Mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back onto a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”