Sadiq Khan has said he should raise London’s council tax and cut free travel for those over 60, as the government has yet to come up with a deal to fund the pandemic-affected transport system.
The mayor of London accused ministers of wanting to ‘unfairly punish Londoners’ by refusing to give longer-term financial aid to Transport for London, which relies on tariff revenues that fell by billions of pounds during the pandemic of Covid.
A funding deal expired on Saturday and while the government agreed to extend the terms by a week, it asked Khan to explain on Wednesday how he would increase his income.
The mayor ruled out a further increase in fares, but bowed to demands to review discounted travel, especially for older passengers, raising the age of the Oyster card to over 60, which allows cardholders living in London to travel for free.
The most significant change will be an increase in the council tax, via the London precept collected for Town Hall, of around £ 20 per property per year.
Khan said: “The sole cause of TfL’s financial problems is Covid-19 and, with the emergence of the Omicron variant and the new guidelines for working from home, it has never been more urgent for the government to agree on ‘a fair, lasting, long-term agreement. term finance agreement for TfL – benefiting our capital and the whole country.
“Railway companies across the UK have faced the same emergency funding challenges as TfL. Either way, the government bailed out private rail operators with long-term deals. However, the government treats London differently.
He accused ministers of “holding London as a ransom” by threatening to halt funding without forcing changes, and that he had no choice but to consider raising the council tax. Tariffs have been raised 1% above inflation under previous deals, but Khan said: ‘I refuse to raise tariffs any further as it would be unfair and counterproductive, discouraging Londoners from use public transport. “
He said that even with the additional tax revenue, TfL is still expected to make significant cuts in bus and metro services, resulting in a “managed decline”.
Other proposed changes include the application of all-day peak fares at Heathrow on the tube, increasing the price of an Oyster Card deposit, and stopping the use of rail travel cards to reduce costs. ticketing costs.
Ministers have said throughout that they will ensure continued funding for the capital. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said earlier this week: “The government is committed to supporting London and the transport network it depends on, while balancing this with support for the national transport network.”
Meanwhile, TfL warned passengers of widespread disruption to the metro network on Friday night and Saturday, with strike action by the RMT likely to shut down several lines and lead to much busier services elsewhere, in an ongoing dispute. concerning the night subway staff.