TfL: Health chief warns work improving Tube safety may be ‘deprioritised’ without further funding

The mayor’s transport strategy sets a goal for London that by 2041 all deaths and serious injuries will be eliminated from the network.
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Transport for London’s (TfL) health chief has warned the authority may need to deprioritise investments improving the network’s safety unless more funding can be secured.

Lilli Matson, chief safety, health and environment officer at TfL, told the City Hall transport committee however that maintenance of the network’s renewal programme would continue to a minimum standard, and that nothing deemed unsafe will be allowed to operate.

The committee was meeting with a range of stakeholders in the first of a two-part investigation into transport safety in the capital.

The mayor’s transport strategy sets a goal for London that by 2041 all deaths and serious injuries will be eliminated from the network.

Targets have also been set for nobody to be killed on or by a bus by 2030 or the Underground by 2024.

The mayor's transport strategy aims for zero deaths and serious injuries on London transport by 2041. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.The mayor's transport strategy aims for zero deaths and serious injuries on London transport by 2041. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.
The mayor's transport strategy aims for zero deaths and serious injuries on London transport by 2041. Credit: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images.

Assembly members (AM) on the committee heard from a range of stakeholders during the session, largely personnel from within TfL but also a union officer and bus safety campaigner, among others.

In the third of three panels held throughout the morning, Labour AM Joanne McCartney asked whether reductions to investments in renewals, as noted by TfL’s programmes and investment committee in a meeting last month, was impacting safety along the network.

Richard Jones, director of asset performance and facilities at TfL, said he is currently in the midst of the business planning process, and that he has been working with “guiding minds” within the authority to identify what areas require what funding.

“Clearly, we have had to prioritise against a very tight renewals budget that we are working towards,” he said. 

“However, I would say that we are a regulated industry. We have to be absolutely clear and assure Richard’s (Hines, deputy chief inspector of railways, railway safety directorate at the Office of Rail and Road) organisation and our own that minimum safety standard have been met, and certainly across that critical infrastructure group such as track, fleet and signalling there are things in there that have been ringfenced because we necessarily have to do them. 

“Would we like more? Of course, but we are able to cut our cloth and prioritise expenditure so we are not compromising safety.”

Asked by Ms McCartney about priorities when it comes to funding, Ms Matson said TfL is currently in discussions with government seeking support for its investment programme. 

Requesting around £500 million, Ms Matson said if a suitable deal is not secured, “we will continue to prioritise the maintenance of our renewal programme to the minimum operating safe level as we require, and we will have to deprioritise other investments that might be more about improving safety performance".

"So maintaining what we’ve got would be the first priority,” she said.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said it is for the mayor, Sadiq Khan, to ensure TfL delivers transport service in London.

“To support this, we have provided more than £6bn since 2020, on top of TfL also receiving just under £1.2bn in capital grant funding until the end of March 2024,’’ they said, adding that the current funding settlement is a way to provide revenue protection. 

Ms Matson told the session that while further investments may need to be deprioritised, the safety of those using the network would not be compromised.

“If there’s any question about the integrity or safety terms of an asset, we will take it out of service,” she said.

“We will not run something that is not safe.”