The opening of the Elizabeth Line next week could lead to some central London bus services being axed to satisfy demand in outer London as Transport for London contemplates a scenario of “managed decline” with a lack of funding from the government, Sadiq Khan has said.
Khan suggested that resources could be moved from central to outer London if TfL is unable to secure long-term funding from the government.
The current emergency funding deal provided to TfL from the Department for Transport (DfT) is set to expire in one month’s time, but Khan said that negotiations over a new deal are “going very slowly”.
TfL has previously warned that failure to secure long-term, sustainable funding would lead to a period of managed decline whereby service levels would have to be reduced and capital investment projects would have to be scrapped.
Bus service levels could be reduced by as much as 18 per cent under a managed decline scenario, with as many as 100 routes potentially facing the axe.
Speaking at a Mayor’s Question Time session at City Hall on Thursday, Khan said that such cuts would be “catastrophic” in outer London, which relies more heavily on bus services.
Once the Elizabeth Line opens between Abbey Wood and Paddington next week, Khan suggested that there could be less need for some buses in central London.
He said: “At the moment what we’ve planned was for a 4 per cent reduction in buses because, in central London there’s some duplication [of routes] – particularly with the new Elizabeth Line opening up next week. So, some of the buses we could take from central London to outer London where there’s a bigger need for buses, not least because there are fewer Tube lines in outer London. We’re also encouraging people in outer London to use buses rather than driving their cars.
“There is a demand in outer London for our buses, so the idea we go into a managed decline scenario where we’re reducing, by 18 or 19 per cent, our bus usage across London, it would be catastrophic to – in particular – outer London.”
TfL lost its government grants when Boris Johnson was mayor, making it largely reliant on income from passengers, but after the pandemic fewer people are using the network to travel to work.
Under the terms of the emergency funding deal agreed in February, the DfT said it was “willing to consider a longer-term capital settlement for TfL” from the start of the current financial year “for a period of 1-3 years”.
This was on the condition that TfL “provides detailed information and data about its capital investment plans that demonstrate prudence”.
The mayor said he would not give a “running commentary” on negotiations with the government but he did tell the London Assembly on Thursday that they were “going very slowly”.
He added that the government had provided TfL with a “high-level technical framework” for capital support, but that “there is no indication yet of any figures”. He added: “Without the figures, TfL can’t make the planning scenarios they need to make.”
In March, TfL confirmed a series of cuts in central London that will see route 1, to Canada Water, extended to Hampstead Heath to replace another service, with route 188 from North Greenwich rerouted to Tottenham Court Road to replace the 1. Last weekend, services between Greenwich and Woolwich were halved as part of long-planned changes to serve Abbey Wood Elizabeth Line station.
Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain
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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