Government threatens fare hikes and extending congestion charge to North and South Circular roads in effort to recoup transport cash lost during pandemic

High fare increases and an extension of the congestion charge to the edge of the South Circular are measures the government may force on residents to plug the Covid-19 transport gap.

Transport for London (TfL) needs a £5billion bailout because of plummeting pandemic passenger numbers.

The price of the bailout could also include the introduction of a new TfL charge to council tax payers.

Other proposals put forward by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps include scrapping free travel for Under-18s, raising council tax and ending concession rates.

A London-wide petition opposing the extension of the congestion charge to the North and South Circular Roads – multiplying the numbers of homes covered tenfold – has already gathered more than 75,000 signatures.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham, said: “The Conservatives’ attempts to bully TfL into inflicting austerity on our city shows they’re fully prepared to throw Londoners under the bus in pursuit of their failed free market ideology.

“Punishing my constituents for their refusal to extend a helping hand to the people and businesses of London – not to mention their own total mismanagement of the pandemic – simply won’t cut it.”

Greenwich and Lewisham London Assembly Member, Len Duvall AM, said: “The Government’s planned TfL funding deal would be disastrous for people in Greenwich and Lewisham.

“Let’s not forget, the reason TfL needs support is for one reason, and one reason alone – because Londoners did the right thing in staying at home due to Covid, and fares income evaporated overnight.

“Now the Government are punishing Londoners for doing exactly what was expected of them.

“It’s not the Mayor they’re punishing, it’s ordinary Londoners.”

Greenwich leader Dan Thorpe said: “Basically, this is absolutely devastating news for us in Greenwich – they are bringing a sledgehammer to our borough and our city in an attempt to score political points.

“They’ve finished in Manchester and now they are coming for us. Playing politics in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a complete and utter disgrace.”

He said the changes came against a backdrop of growing poverty in Greenwich, where 43 per cent of children already live in poverty, while another 600 have become eligible for free school meals in the last month.

Greenwich Opposition and Tory leader Nigel Fletcher said a “fair” funding solution should be found, adding “it would be wrong” for the Tory government to force decisions upon TfL.

He added: “TfL’s finances have clearly been hit hard by Covid and it is right for the Government to bail them out.

“Decisions on funding should be made solely by the Mayor, who is accountable for those hard choices. Political posturing on this issue will not serve Londoners well.”

Mr Khan said: “I simply cannot accept this government plan, which would hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs at a time when so many people are already facing hardship.”

Cllr Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth council, said: “Our Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has been fixing Boris Johnson’s mess he left in Transport for London before the Covid-19 crisis hit.

“Boris Johnson and his Tories would have you believe it was the other way round. The Prime Minister should not be playing party political games with the lives of Londoners.

“We will continue to fight alongside Sadiq Khan for what is right for Londoners, who have endured so much this year.”

TfL sought Government financial support after fares income dropped by 90 per cent at the height of lockdown.

A DfT spokeswoman said: “We have agreed an extension to the support period and to roll over unspent funding from the Transport for London Extraordinary Funding Agreement, allowing further time for negotiations for a new settlement.

“These discussions will ensure London has a safe, reliable network. It would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.

“We have previously provided TfL with £1.6bn of taxpayer funding support to ensure the services Londoners rely on continue to run.

“This extension will allow TfL to draw on the underspend from the original £1.6bn.

“The Government’s priority is to agree a funding deal with the Mayor but will continue to consider all options to ensure that public transport is protected.”

Pictured top: Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy with campaigners

 

 


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