The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has accused the UK Government of offering London transport operator Transport for London (TfL) 22 times less funding compared to private train companies.
According to the union, the policy devised by the government would lead to TfL earning £1 per passenger journey, compared to £22 earned by train operators. Train operator Chiltern Railways, reported RMT in a statement, will receive £20 per passenger journey whilst Transpennine Express is set to get £36.
“It cannot be right that Londoners are being threatened with 22 times less funding per passenger journey than the private train companies,” lamented RMT general secretary Mick Cash. “We welcome the support that’s been given to the rail industry, but we have to see the same standards applied to London’s massive transport network.”
“Instead we’re seeing a politically motivated attack which is starving the capital of transport finding and piling on the pain for ordinary Londoners and small businesses.”
Cash’s comments follow a week of tensions between Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Downing Street. On 21 October, Khan hit back at the government’s proposed measures for TfL, which included – amongst other things – an increase in fares above the inflation rate as well as a new council tax charge for public transport.
The mayor described the measures as “ill-advised and draconian”, considering them too penalising on the capital, especially given the 18-month blank cheque funding deal offered to train operators.
“It is clear that difficult choices lie ahead to plug the huge gap the pandemic left in TfL’s finances,” he said. “But a proposal which singles out Londoners for punishment is completely unacceptable, as well as making no economic sense.”
“I urge ministers to come back to the table with a revised proposal which does not punish Londoners for doing the right thing to tackle Covid-19.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on TfL, with revenues going down by 90% due to the lockdown measures imposed to contain the virus.
Even though TfL was bailed out in May with a £1.6bn relief fund to protect services, the UK Government recently offered the operator a further £1bn. The further bailout was subjected to a list of demands, including for TfL to increase public transport fares and limit travel exemptions for children and pensioners.
As reported by the Financial Times, the government threatened to size control of the operator if Khan failed to reach the deal proposed by ministers.