Zac Goldsmith today warned London’s rail and Tube commuters that they risked worsening travelling conditions if they back Labour rival Sadiq Khan next week.
The Tory mayoral hopeful has published data showing that 22,000 London commuters endure overcrowded train services each morning and says many travel in conditions that would be illegal for farmyard animals.
London’s rising population means transport bosses are drawing up plans to service 330 million extra journeys each year but Mr Goldsmith says these plans would be put at risk by Mr Khan’s pledge to freeze Transport for London fares for the full four-year mayoral term.
Labour’s fares freeze has proven to be the biggest policy difference between the two frontrunners vying to succeed Boris Johnson as mayor.
Mr Khan says the policy would cost around £450m and could be funded through efficiency savings within TfL, however the agency’s own figures say the cost would be closer to £1.9bn.
The Labour candidate has repeatedly disputed that figure, claiming it is based on overly high assumptions about inflation rates but TfL says its calculations use data from the Bank of England and leading financial agencies.
Although TfL managers are keen to avoid being drawn into the row between their potential future bosses, former transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy said last December: “I don’t see how you can reduce the fares without having a dramatically bad effect either on the infrastructure or the level of service or both.”
Sir Peter’s comments went far further than successor Mike Brown who told the London Assembly’s transport committee he “would certainly be very cautious about saying we can amend our fares plan”.
Labour says that by accepting TfL’s plans Mr Goldsmith would see fares rise each each over the mayoralty.
Questioned about this by various media outlets, the Tory candidate has repeatedly declined to confirm he would sanction fares increases but previously told this site that the need for any fares rises would depend on the mayor’s ability to secure funding from central government.
Goldsmith is keen to portray himself as the candidate best able to talk to ministers and claims Mr Khan has repeatedly failed to lobby on London’s behalf on a range of issues, including rail devolution and homes building, and would be unable to work across party to secure the cash London needs.
Today he said: “The situation is now critical – with the number of commuter journeys set to increase by 330 million each year, we need to urgently stand up for London’s commuters by investing in services to reduce delays and overcrowding.
“That would all be put at risk by Sadiq Khan, whose £1.9 billion black hole in the transport budget will be a disaster for London’.”
Mr Goldsmith also labeled his opponent “the political representative of the trade union bosses” and pledged to be “the champion for commuters.”
Londoners will elect a new Mayor and the 25 members of the London Assembly on May 5th. Candidates for Mayor include Conservative Zac Goldsmith, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, the Green party’s Sian Berry and UKIP’s Peter Whittle.