Lib Dem MP defends Sadiq Khan and TfL against government attacks

The Liberal Democrat’s transport spokesperson, Sarah Olney MP, has branded what she called unfair government attacks on Transport for London (TfL) and Sadiq Khan as “total crap”.

The Richmond Park MP accused the government of trying to send out the message that TfL was facing a challenging economic condition due to the mayor’s poor handling.

She told SWLondoner: “You’d have to be a total idiot not to see that the reason TfL was in the mess it was in was because it lost 80% of its income, for at least six months, due to a pandemic.”

The MP accused the Department for Transport (DfT) of double standards over how TfL has been treated compared to the train operating companies.

She said DfT had underwritten the costs of train operating companies to the tune of several billion, no questions asked, no strings attached, while TfL had had to resort to haggling.

Olney labelled it aggravating political game-playing, saying that it made genuine criticism of TfL and Khan over issues such as Crossrail delays harder.

DfT and TfL have been locked in negotiations since the start of the pandemic, agreeing to a series of short-term funding agreements to keep TfL running.

On 25 February, the bodies agreed to a £200million funding settlement to keep TfL running until 24 June.

The latest settlement brings the government’s total support for TfL since March 2020 to almost £5billion.

Khan welcomed the latest settlement but warned it only provided certainty for a few more months.

He said: “The only way we will be able to avoid significant and damaging cuts to tube and bus services is if the Government steps up and provides the longer-term capital funding TfL urgently needs.”

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, insisted that the government had repeatedly shown its commitment to London and the transport network it depends upon.

Shapps criticised striking tube drivers on Twitter yesterday, saying this was no way to repay hard-pressed taxpayers.

To secure the most recent funding settlement, the mayor agreed with DfT that he will continue a review of TfL’s pension scheme and reform options.

The settlement letter states this should be done: “With the explicit aim of moving TfL’s Pension Fund into a financially sustainable position.”

The letter also said: “DfT will lead a joint programme with TfL on the implementation of Driverless Trains on the London Underground, recognising TfL’s safety, regulatory and statutory responsibilities.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our members across London Underground are making it crystal clear again this morning that they are not going to be used as pawns in a political fight between the Mayor and the Government.

“The funding crisis at TfL which is at the heart of this dispute is not of our making and our members are not prepared to take a hammering to pay for it.”

The Mayor of London and DfT have been contacted for comment.

Image credit: Keith Edkins via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

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