TfL crisis latest: entire Tube line may have to close and bankruptcy notice issued

·3-min read

Closing an entire Tube line is among the options that Transport for London may have to consider as a result of its financial crisis, it has been revealed.

TfL finance chief Simon Kilonback said the failure to secure Government cash for long-term repairs and upgrades would have a disastrous impact on the capital’s transport network.

Last week TfL warned that 18 per cent of bus services and nine per cent of Tube services were facing the axe, which would mean removing 100 of 700 bus routes and reducing services on 200 more.

Mr Kilonback told the TfL finance committee on Wednesday that TfL could be forced into the “full closure of a line or part of a line or smaller reductions across the whole [Underground] network”.

He did not name the line most likely to be closed but the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines are reportedly at risk.

A blue sky future is unlikely for TfL (Mike Garnett)
A blue sky future is unlikely for TfL (Mike Garnett)

The Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines could also be options due to lower passenger numbers and overlapping rail or Tube services.

DLR and London Overground services are also at risk, Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor for transport, told the committee.

Mr Kilonback said there was a risk that TfL would have to issue a “section 114 notice” - effectively declaring itself bankrupt and handing responsibility for services back to the Government.

This would mean it would only commit to providing services required by law, such as school buses, taxi licensing, certain road repairs and the Woolwich ferry.

It would also be likely that TfL would seek to run only services where it made a “profit”, he suggested.

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Mayor Sadiq Khan has requested an urgent meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, but has yet to receive a reply.

TfL commissioner Andy Byford told the TfL finance committee there was “less than three weeks to save TfL and the London recovery”.

He said: “I never thought I would say this but getting the Elizabeth line across the line seems a darn sight easier than trying to sort this one out.”

Mr Byford has written to the permanent secretary at the Department for Transport requesting the start of negotiations. He said he was desperate to avoid what happened in the last bail-out, when agreement was only reached with “11 minutes to go before the deal expired”.

Passengers are also likely to face a bumper fares hike from the New Year. TfL’s plans expect a rise of the RPI rate of interest plus one per cent.

This is likely to mean an extra five per cent on fares, though Mr Khan has the final decision.

TfL commissioner Andy Byford: Funding crisis is even worse than Crossrail (Jeremy Selwyn)
TfL commissioner Andy Byford: Funding crisis is even worse than Crossrail (Jeremy Selwyn)

TfL ticketing chief Shashi Verma said: “This is the city with the highest public transport fares in the world to start off with.”

Mr Kilonback said: “I think we unfortunately face the situation we first faced back in May 2020, where we are going to have to consider what is required under statute, and say that under S114 of the local Government Finance Act we cannot see a way to balance the budget.

“That requires us to commute all expenditure other than that which is required for statutory purposes, which are very limited in terms of the transport services we operate, and to continue to run things that contribute to getting out of the problem and to stop anything which makes the problem worse.

“Whereas in the past, certainly the Tube and some of our rail services were covering their operating costs. That isn’t the case today. This is not a threat. It’s the reality of the statutory position we are in, given the lack of certainty over funding.”

A TfL spokeswoman, asked whether London’s fares were the highest in the world, said: “In London, 72 per cent of the operating costs of running the TfL network are covered completely by fares and another 14 per cent by other commercial revenues.

“Other cities cover a much larger proportion of their costs from government subsidies or dedicated taxes.”   

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