Another brink for London Transport funding

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Wed, 19/05/2021 - 20:39,

The government has extended TfL's funding to 28 May. Negotiations between TfL, City Hall, and the Department for Transport continue.

The current pattern of short-term funding bailouts is unsustainable. It suits the Tories, as every round of negotiations is another opportunity to attempt to attach strings to the deal. The government commissioned a financial review, conducted by auditing and accountancy firm KPMG, which was explicitly instructed to identify cuts and workplace reforms. The full contents of the KPMG review have never been published.

Sadiq Khan then commissioned his own independent review, which also urged cuts, and explicitly identified the TfL pension scheme as in need of reform.

Bosses previously told unions that jobs cuts or attacks on terms and conditions would not take place as long as the existing funding arrangements were in place. That commitment has already been broken by LU's decision to consolidate full-time and Night Tube train driver grades, meaning full-time drivers will now have to work nights. Driver jobs are also being cut on the Bakerloo line.

Previous funding deals committed TfL to returning to being "self-financing" by 2023. This is a trap; passenger levels may or may not have returned to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, but in any case, for a transport system like TfL to rely solely on fares is ridiculous. TfL needs stable, sustainable, central government funding. It is the only metropolitan transport system of its type in the world not to receive state subsidy. Pre-pandemic, it was reliant on fare revenue for nearly 75% of its income, nearly double the amount of similar systems in Paris and New York. Sadiq Khan should be demanding the restoration of the grant the Tories abolished in 2018, not making cuts proposals of his own.

RMT has already declared a dispute over grade consolidation for train drivers. That dispute should be progressed to a ballot as soon as possible. Drivers' union Aslef, although it has scandalously supported LU's grade consolidation plan, still has a live ballot mandate from a pre-emptive ballot it conducted in March over potential threats to terms and conditions. As we lurch from one short-term funding deal to the next, it's time for RMT to prepare a wider ballot for pre-emptive action against the cuts we know the bosses will be planning.

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