Sunday 10 May 2020 1:18 pm

TfL seeking a £2bn bailout from central government

Transport for London (TfL) is seeking a £2bn bailout from the government after its finances have been plunged into dire territory by the coronavirus crisis.

TfL bosses, including London mayor Sadiq Khan, are in talks with Whitehall to secure the emergency funding after the crisis has left the body with just £1bn in the bank, according to the Sunday Times.

Read more: Boris Johnson set to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions tonight

The transport body is reportedly spends £21m per day, leaving it just two months until its coffers run dry.

The state of TfL’s finances may put planned upgrades, such as the long-touted Bakerloo line extension, in doubt.

TfL’s other planned projects – signalling upgrades, Crossrail 2 and DLR extensions – may also be under threat.

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London’s public transport system has been battered by the coronavirus outbreak, with Tube numbers down 95 per cent and bus numbers down 85 per cent.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are working closely with the government and are in constructive discussions over the support that can be made available.

“A successful conclusion to these discussions is now urgent.”

It comes as TfL were already loaded with an estimated £11bn of debt and a projected 2019-20 deficit of around £220m, which was a vast improvement on initial estimates.

TfL’s finances have been affected by the government reducing its annual contribution to the body by £700m, Crossrail’s budget blowouts and Khan’s fares freeze for single journeys implemented in 2016.

Writing in City A.M. on Wednesday, Khan said there would not be “a swift return to how [TfL] was before the crisis”.

“It’s an inescapable fact that no mass transport system of the scale we have in London can operate at full capacity while maintaining social distancing at all times,” he said. 

Read more: Sadiq Khan: There will be no swift return to normality for TfL

“Even with Tube ridership standing at just five per cent at the moment, there are times when passengers struggle to keep their distance. 

“This means that if the social distancing requirements remain in place, the total carrying capacity of the Tube will have to be reduced to between 13 to 20 per cent of pre-crisis levels – even with close to 100 per cent of trains running.”