Local London Assembly Member Unmesh Desai AM has hit out against the terms of the bailout deal the Government has imposed upon Transport for London (TfL), saying that they will “hit some of the poorest in our capital the hardest”.
On Thursday evening, Government agreed a last-minute £1.6 billion bailout package with TfL, due to the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on its finances.
Since lockdown measures began, TfL’s fare and other revenue has fallen by 90%.
Mr Desai is rallying against some of the terms of this deal that have been imposed by the Government. He said that the Government’s ordering of a fares rise on TfL services and sudden changes to the Freedom Pass, were a “gratuitous kick in the teeth for Londoners”.
Mr Desai is also raising concerns about the Government’s plans to saddle TfL with over £500 million of additional debt as part of the agreement.
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Since 2018, the Government have removed, on average, £700 million a year from TfL’s operating budget. This has meant that TfL is one of the only transport authorities in the world that does not receive a grant from Central Government to support its operating costs.
Despite this, according to Sadiq Khan, TfL’s operating deficit has been reduced by 71% during his tenure as Mayor.
Mr Desai said: “In the midst of this crisis, it has been incredibly disappointing to see the Government force such a punitive and damaging bailout deal upon TfL.
“When they should be working constructively with City Hall to help the capital through this pandemic, the Government’s fare hike, sudden changes to the Freedom Pass and saddling of TfL with debt is a gratuitous kick in the teeth for Londoners.
“This will hit some of the poorest in our capital the hardest. It is also nonsensical that Londoners have been effectively singled out and punished in this way, after doing the right thing and staying at home and away from public transport to contain the virus.
“The Government needs to own up to the fact that where they could have helped TfL back on track to recovery, they have inflicted unnecessary pain and uncertainty. They must go back to the drawing board and reconsider this decision.”
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