Coronavirus: London transport faces 'doomsday scenario' without extra help

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
A passenger waits for a tube train that did not arrive on an empty platform during rush hour at Oxford Circus underground station in London February 5, 2014. Millions of commuters in London faced travel chaos on Wednesday on the first full day of a 48-hour tube strike by London Underground staff over planned job cuts and the closure of ticket offices. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor  (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST)
Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander said that daily income has dropped from £13m a day to £5m. Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Without a second bailout, London’s transport network faces a “doomsday scenario” the Transport for London (TfL) network has warned.

As the 17 October deadline nears for the expiry of the current £1.6bn ($2.07bn) bailout package from the government granted in May, people using public transport is still nowhere near levels seen pre-coronavirus.

TfL’s income suffered a big hit due to people working from home during the pandemic, plunging by 90% as lockdowns set in.

Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander said that daily income has dropped from £13m a day to £5m.

Without a renewed cash injection TfL would be forced to issue a Section 114 order. This is the equivalent of bankruptcy.

Under this “doomsday scenario” the Woolwich Ferry, linking Woolwich and North Woolwich, would be the only commuter service TfL is legally obligated to run, according to a 200-year-old law.

Advice from public health officials continues to be to work from home if you can, so even though restrictions have relaxed on leisure activities, the network will not see the same level of commuter traffic it had pre-pandemic for quite some time.

TfL has said it needs an additional £2bn to run the network until December, but Boris Johnson has said, speaking to BBC London, any future deal would be reliant on Sadiq Khan "taking some steps to show more prudence in how he handles his money."

"I'm sad to say the current mayor of London blew the finances of TfL with an irresponsible fare package," Johnson said. "This government will do what we can to support Londoners and keep the city moving."

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A spokesperson for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan called the comments “extraordinarily disingenuous,” adding that the main cause for the network’s struggles was the virus rather than financial mismanagement.

Johnson’s comments followed warnings from Khan that Londoners could be forced to travel on 70-year-old tube trains on the Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines if extra funding isn’t provided.