Long-term TfL funding deal reached but more strikes ‘likely’

Deal with government comes after more than a month of TfL deliberations, reports Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

Roundel outside Southwark Underground station
credit TfL

London’s tube network is set to face yet more disruption in the coming months as further strike action is “likely” following the latest Transport for London (TfL) funding deal, a union has warned.

On Tuesday (30th), it was announced that TfL had accepted a £3.6billion bailout from the government that will keep services running and fund maintenance and infrastructure projects through to March 2024.

TfL’s income, which is heavily reliant on passenger fares, has never fully recovered following the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, when people were ordered to stay at home and not travel unless essential. TfL has only avoided bankruptcy in the last two-and-a-half years thanks to a series of short-term funding deals with the government.

But Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that “onerous” conditions attached to the new long-term funding deal by government meant it was “far from ideal”, with fare increases, service cuts and changes to TfL staff pensions still on the cards.

The tube network was brought to an almost complete standstill on 19th August when members of RMT walked out over fears that the bailout, which union leaders say was negotiated “in secret”, would lead to job and pensions cuts.

On Wednesday morning, the union announced that the conditions imposed by the government will “likely” lead to more strikes. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This deal negotiated in secret by TfL and government ministers will likely see our members pensions attacked and further pay restraint in the future, coupled with driverless trains.

“[Transport secretary] Grant Shapps’ attack on tube workers would be unacceptable at any time but in an escalating cost of living crisis it is shameful and will be resisted through further strike action.

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“TfL need to stand up to Grant Shapps and demand a deal that serves all the people of London and addresses the real concerns of London transport workers who keep the capital running.”

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The biggest point of contention for unions contained within the funding agreement is the condition that TfL has until September to outline how it intends to move its pension scheme into a “long-term, financially sustainable position”.

That is despite Khan saying in June that he was “not persuaded that there are any grounds to change the pensions” of those working for TfL and that it was “for the government to make the case” following an independent review into TfL’s pensions.

Unions are also strongly opposed to the government’s provision that TfL should “assess the case” for driverless trains on the tube network, something that has been included in previous funding deals.

In a tweet, Khan has accused the government of attempting to “provoke further industrial action”, which he said will lead to “more disruption” and “misery” for London’s commuters.

Despite the deal having been agreed, TfL must still find an additional £230million before March 2024, with a 4% cut to bus services across London on the cards – less than the 18% cut forecast had a deal not been reached.

Khan said in his statement: “These are things we have had no choice but to accept in order to get the deal over the line to avoid TfL becoming bankrupt, to save the jobs of thousands of transport workers and to keep trains, tubes and buses running across our city.”

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said: “This deal more than delivers for Londoners and even matches the mayor’s own pre-pandemic spending plans but for this to work, the mayor must follow through on his promises to get TfL back on a steady financial footing, stop relying on government bailouts and take responsibility for his actions. Now is the time to put politics to one side and get on with the job – Londoners depend on it.”

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