Transport for London (TfL) may be forced to cut Tube and bus services, Sadiq Khan has confirmed, as it scrambles to find £900m in savings a year under the terms of the government’s latest bailout.
Last week ministers agreed a new six month funding agreement for the transport network worth £1bn, but the deal comes with a number of conditions.
Central to these is the requirement to make extra savings on the network, which has now received almost £5bn in government support over the last year.
Speaking as the Waterloo & City line reopened yesterday after 15 months of closure, Khan confirmed that services cuts were an option, as well as closing offices and merging departments.
“I can’t pretend it’s going to be easy”, the Mayor told the BBC. “The sort of thing we are looking at is if we can vacate some offices, merging some departments, having fewer non-permanent staff but I’m afraid one of the things we will have to look at is a possible reduction in services.
“I don’t want to do it – for me it’s counterproductive and not the way to avoid a car led recovery – but it is one of the consequences of the Government asking us to make these savings.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor added that Khan was “confident that no significant cuts to services will now have to be made”.
They added that the government had tried to enforce cuts equivalent to “axing one in five bus services or an entire Tube line”.
The need to cut services comes just as passenger numbers on the transport network are beginning to recover amid the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Last week saw the most people using TfL services since the pandemic began 15 months ago, though figures are still just over 40 per cent of pre-lockdown levels.
The body was already exploring cutting some bus services under conditions set by previous deals.
The latest short-term funding deal came despite hopes that ministers would give TfL the long-term deal that Khan and Commissioner Andy Byford had asked for.
City Hall had requested £3bn for the next financial year, as well as £1.8bn a year for capital expenditure until 2023.