London will come to an “absolute shut down” if TfL is not given second bailout, says transport boss

By Jessie Mathewson, Local Democracy Reporter

Transport for London (TfL) will face a “doomsday scenario” with the Tube and buses shut down if the Government doesn’t agree a second emergency bailout, the network chief has warned.

Passengers would be forced to catch the Woolwich ferry – the only commuter service TfL is legally obliged to run.

Ministers first handed the network £1.6 billion in May to keep services running during the coronavirus pandemic, after fare income fell by 90 per cent.

But that deal is set to expire in just over two weeks – and network chief Andy Byford warned TfL is “right on the wire” and needs more cash.

The transport authority wants £2 billion for the second half of this financial year, and almost £3 billion for next year to keep it afloat.

Mr Byford stressed that the figures were not “plucked out of the air” and there is “science behind it”.

He and finance chief Simon Kilonback are “stemming the haemorrhage” with “very tight controls” on spending, he added.

But TfL is still waiting for a letter promised by the Department for Transport which will set out the size of the second bailout, and the conditions attached.

As the deadline for a new deal approaches, Mr Byford said he was “almost begging” ministers to send their offer so negotiations can start.

“We really need to be talking turkey now – we need to get into those hard-nosed negotiations,” he said.

“We’re not expecting a blank cheque: I accept that there’ll be conditions.

“But the sooner we start talking about the conditions the sooner we can come to an amicable or agreeable settlement.”

Mr Byford stressed that this is “not a game” and TfL has legal obligations to balance its budget.

Without Government cash, the network will be forced to issue a Section 114 order – the equivalent of bankruptcy for a public company.

This “doomsday scenario” would mean “absolute shut down” with TfL only allowed to run services it has to provide by statute.

“London will grind to a halt – it’s as simple as that,” said Mr Byford.

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