Sadiq Khan stages ultimate battle to stop London Underground from getting off the Underground
Tony Blair thought he had the answer to London’s eternal public transport funding problem. For decades before him, the Greater London Authority depended on an annual grant from Westminster to balance the books.
As a result, long-term investment was nearly impossible, which meant that passengers on the world’s oldest underground railway regularly faced delays, cancellations, and excessive engineering work.
Privatizing the metro was the response of his predecessor John Major. But Blair had other ideas when he took office in 1997. Public-private partnerships were the answer.
John Prescott, transportation secretary at the time, told Commons that the PPP model would “modernize the subway” and “ensure value for money” – none of those claims would come true.
More than two decades later and more than 10 years after the implosion of the New Labor experiment, the financing of public transport in the capital remains an enigma.
Though decisions have yet to be made, Westminster is expected to offer London Mayor Sadiq Khan the bare minimum funding this week to keep public transport across the capital, a £ 500million bailout to support Transport for London through ‘in March of next year. This brings TfL to the brink of failure for the fifth time since the start of the pandemic.
The mayor and his officials are scrambling over the weekend to persuade their counterparts in Whitehall to agree to a full £ 1.7bn bailout that would keep services running until March 2023.
Khan also wants billions of pounds for a capital spending program, used to replace faulty trains, which he says is necessary to maintain the metro status quo rather than improve it.
Until the pandemic, experts say a positive legacy has remained from the Blairite reforms. Not beholden to government handouts, TfL had the ability to raise capital independently – the decentralized administration could plan for the long term.
The coronavirus failed that, however. The lockdowns resulted in a sharp drop in tariff revenue, forcing TfL to seek help from the Boris Johnson administration. It has received £ 4.8bn in taxpayer funding since March 2020 under three deals. The last grant expires at midnight Friday.