Transport for London (TfL) has today published the terms and conditions of its £1.6bn bailout from the government as the row over the rescue package continued.
In the letter from transport secretary Grant Shapps, TfL was asked to suspend free travel for under 18s and Freedom Pass holders and reinstate the congestion charge in order to guarantee access to the funding.
In addition, the operator was told to commit to restoring full service on the entire network, other than the night tube and weekend night buses, within four weeks at the most.
The letter also asked London mayor Sadiq Khan to “confirm he will increase fares by RPI plus one per cent on all modes from January 2021 as proposed in the TfL business plan”.
In March, the mayor committed to restricting the fare rise on the tube to the level of inflation, whilst maintaining the freeze on buses.
In addition, it said that an “additional funding package” would have to be identified for the Crossrail project when the funding support period comes to an end.
Khan said the letter showed that the government was trying to punish Londoners for doing the right thing during the pandemic.
Yesterday he called for free travel for children to be restored, warning that taking it away would hit the capital’s poor the hardest and increase the cost for boroughs.
In the letter, the DfT asks for TfL to “temporarily” suspend free travel during peak times for Freedom card holders and at all times for under 18s in order to “optimise the use of the available safe transport capacity”.
This is part of the government’s plan to ensure that passenger levels on public transport remain safe for those who have to get to work to do so.
One of the most contested areas of the bailout has been the decision to raise the congestion charge from £11.50 to £15 from 22 June.
Under section 11, the letter states the deal is contingent upon “the immediate reintroduction of the London Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ and urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels of these charges, in accordance with the relevant legal powers and decision-making processes”.
Khan told GMB last week that although the government had insisted on reinstating the charge, it had been TfL’s decision to increase it.
The document also shows that the funding was contingent on TfL pushing forward an “active travel” plan to promote cycling and walking.
It said TfL should make use of “at least” £55m to develop cycle lanes, close roads to traffic, and extend pavements.
A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The reason the Government didn’t want the full document to be published is because it shows in black and white that they are punishing Londoners for doing the right thing during this pandemic.
“It forces TfL to raise all fares above inflation; raise the congestion charge; restrict free travel for over 60s and scrap it completely for under 18s.
“This deal is unfair on Londoners and shows that we are the test-bed for the Government austerity that’s to come.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “We are working constructively with TfL on ways to reduce demand on the network during the Covid-19 crisis, including looking into the option of temporarily suspending free travel for under 18’s.
“We have also published clear advice that urges people to avoid public transport if possible, and announced £2bn in funding to encourage even more people to begin cycling and walking.“