Cuts to cycling schemes in London as a result of TfL’s financial crisis would be “absolutely horrifying”, cycling activists have warned.
Committee papers released on Wednesday evening revealed that TfL was facing huge cuts without long-term Government support, with London mayor Sadiq Khan having warned of a £1.3 billion gap in its capital investment and repairs budget beyond 2023.
The mayor has warned that TfL’s dire financial situation may lead to a period of “managed decline” which could see service reductions on the Tube and buses, as well as major repairs and infrastructure projects being abandoned.
Safety upgrades at several dangerous junctions in London as well as TfL’s wider Healthy Streets programme – which promotes walking and cycling – are facing the axe as a result of the cuts, while TfL’s cycle hire scheme would not be expanded as planned.
Projects at risk include Cycleway 4 from Tower Bridge to Woolwich, which would be abandoned after the current section under construction on Evelyn Street, Deptford is completed, without completing the route through the Rotherhithe one-way system or finishing a permanent route through and beyond Greenwich.
Simon Munk, campaigns manager at the London Cycling Campaign, has said that it would be “absolute insanity” for the Westminster government to invest in walking and cycling elsewhere in the country only to see London “fall backwards” without a long-term funding deal.
Munk said: “The idea of seeing this level of impact, not just to walking and cycling, but to public transport or the inability to do large projects – all of this is just not an acceptable way forward if the government is serious about its agenda on climate. It’s absolutely horrifying.
“The idea that we will be able to boost cycling levels – which we need to do for climate, which we need to do for pollution – the idea we can do that without delivering safety upgrades to junctions is utterly foolish. If we do not improve cycling and make it safer, we will not see more people cycling.”
While Munk echoed Sadiq Khan’s calls for a long-term funding deal from the government, he added that “the mayor now has to look at smart road user pricing”, which would provide a “simpler, fairer system” to charge road users while plugging TfL’s shortfall.
The issue of smart road user pricing, which could involve charging London’s motorists on a pay-per-mile basis, was raised in City Hall on Thursday by Green Party assembly member Sian Berry. Responding to Berry’s question, Khan said that smart road user charging would be “kept under review”.
But Khan stressed the need for a sustainable funding deal from the Government to support TfL in the long term and to plug its financial black hole.
He said: “We’d hoped for an announcement about additional funding in the Treasury’s recent spending review, but nothing materialised. With no apparent movement by ministers, and with time fast running out before TfL’s temporary emergency funding deal comes to an end on 11 December, I feel it is my duty as mayor to start sounding the alarm. The situation TfL faces and the potential knock-on consequences for millions of Londoners is grave.
“It’s my job to stand up for London, so with just over three weeks to go until the temporary TfL funding deal ends, I call on the Government to start working with TfL in good faith to protect London’s transport system for the sake of the capital and the whole country.”
A government spokesperson has said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn in emergency funding to Transport for London.
“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back onto a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”
Joe Talora is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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