TfL cash crisis: Sadiq Khan issues ‘dire warning’ entire Tube line could close due to lack of funding

Sadiq Khan has issued a “dire warning” that he could be forced to shut an entire London Underground line if a bailout is not agreed with the government.

An entire Tube line could be closed due to a lack of funds, Londoners have been warned.

Sadiq Khan has issued a “dire warning” he could be forced to shut an entire Underground line if a bailout is not agreed with the government.

The mayor of London said: “If the Government continues to starve Transport for London (TfL) of funding, bus services would have to be reduced by almost a fifth, and Tube services would need to be cut by nearly 10%.

“This could mean more than 100 bus routes withdrawn and less frequent Tube timetables.

“TfL is even having to look at potentially closing a whole Tube line to achieve the savings it may need to make.”

A government spokesperson said it would continue to discuss funding with TfL.

The mayor’s warnings came as he spoke at the Centre for London conference this morning (Tuesday, November 30) where he said negotiations for the settlement “haven’t even begun”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

During a Q&A session with Caroline Wheeler, political editor of the Sunday Times, Mr Khan said: “I’ve got to be honest, I’m angry. TfL’s budget is circa £9 billion a year. We procure lots of contracts, we help create jobs.

“We’ve now got just a number of days left, 11 days left. We haven’t even begun negotiations.

“We haven’t even begun.”

He added: “I don’t think a negotiation is sending a letter at a quarter to midnight on December 11.

“What the government should be doing is working with us.

“We’re on the same side here. We want a national recovery and for London to play its role.

“If London is starved of resources ... do you think it’s more likely or less likely that we’ll contribute £40bn to the Treasury each year?

“Playing party politics with our city and the future of TfL is not the way I think our government or our city should be run.”

He told Ms Wheeler: “My commissioner has been ready and waiting with his team to work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and with the Treasury. Let’s work to try and resolve this - we are ready and waiting to talk.

“Let’s hope the government sees sense.”

The mayor said passenger numbers had fallen by 95% during the pandemic which had a “devastating” impact on TfL’s finances.

The network needs £500 million from the government until April 2022, and around £1.2bn to sustain it through the financial year 2022-23, when it becomes financially independent.

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Picture: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images.

It comes as George Osborne, former Chancellor and ex-editor of the Evening Standard, described the government’s approach as “micromanaging” TfL.

In an interview with Conservative Home, he said: “[Sadiq Khan] should have responsibility for running the transport system in London and the freedom to run that system as he sees fit, to raise fares if he is prepared to.

“What’s happened instead is the Government has stepped in and is trying to micromanage how he runs TfL.

“I would let him take responsibility, because then I think the public would say: ‘Are you doing it well?’

“At the moment you’re giving him a free pass of saying: ‘Well, you know, the Government’s not giving me enough money.’

“The harder solution, but the better one, is to put the mayor in charge.”

Shepherd’s Bush in the 1980s. Credit: TfL

Addressing the conference, Mr Khan said: “I agree with the government and mayors across the country when they say other regions should have ‘London-style’ transport services.

“But the irony is that a failure to provide enough operational and capital funding for TfL means that it won’t be long before London itself will no longer have ‘London-style’ transport services.

“Instead, we’ll be forced to move into managed decline – leading to run-down services reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s.

“This is no exaggeration.”

He added: “There would also be an increase in road and tunnel closures due to a lack of money to maintain London’s key transport infrastructure.

“Deteriorating public transport services and an increase in road and tunnel closures would cause wide-spread disruption and gridlock across the capital. Not only would this have a devastating effect on passengers, but it would put the national economic recovery at risk.

“Because there can be no national economic recovery without a London recovery, and there can be no London recovery without a properly funded public transport network in the capital.

“It’s time to remove short-term political thinking and to come together to call on the government to provide the long-term funding TfL urgently needs.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4bn in emergency funding to TfL.

“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back onto a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”

Mr Khan has also welcomed the return of powers to fine people up to £200 for not wearing a mask on the Tube, as restrictions are reimposed due to the Omicron variant.

The Treasury has been approached for comment.