Sadiq Khan has said today that the government will not try to force Transport for London (TfL) to implement driverless trains as a part of current bailout negotiations.
Khan told a group of reporters at his re-election campaign launch that the government had dropped any request to bring in driverless trains, after initially asking for an “expert-led review” on the measure as part of the November bailout.
TfL’s £1.7bn bailout from November, its second for 2020, is set to run out at the end of this month, with the transport body needing a new funding round to continue to operate.
The last bailout included terms such as forcing an above inflation increase in fare prices, a 10 per cent rise in council tax and a pledge to return to sustainable finances by 2023.
TfL saw its revenues plummet last year due to Covid restrictions, with passenger numbers falling by more than 90 per cent during the first England lockdown.
The mayor said today that the government had dropped its inquiries into driverless trains as a way to cut costs.
“For trains to be driverless the investment in infrastructure in trains and stations costs a humongous amount of money, far far more than [the savings] they are seeking to achieve,” he said.
“Once the government realised that, it was no longer when one of their asks.
“If it was they would have to show how to do it without spending huge amounts of money.”
Khan’s re-election campaign launch saw the mayor commit to spending more of his £18bn budget on helping London’s economic recovery.
Khan announced three key policies today as a part of his campaign launch – a £5m fund designed to bring Londoners and domestic tourists back into the West End, a pledge to “maximise” City Hall expenditure on London’s economic recovery and a pledge to make it easier for London business owners to “to access advice and support”.
He also has a £330m skills training fund that has been given to City Hall by the government.
“We’re going to be pivoting that skills budget to make sure we help people who are in work in maybe lower paid jobs to maybe skill up while they’re in work,” he said.
The launch comes after chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday announced £60bn in extra Covid support for businesses across the UK in his spring Budget.
This included extensions for a range of emergency support schemes – including the furlough scheme, VAT cut for the retail and tourism sectors and business rates holiday – as well as initiatives like the “recovery loan scheme” that will provide businesses with government-backed loans worth between £25,000 and £10m.
The chancellor also unveiled a new £5bn grants scheme that will provide Covid-hit firms up to £18,000 to boost their survival chances.