Last month TfL released to me figures showing that its monthly average spend on track maintenance and replacement during Boris Johnson’s last two years at City Hall was around £17m, versus an actual and projected £11m average during current Mayor Sadiq Khan’s first 2 years.
In its response to my FOI, TfL said:
“We have been investing significantly in our asset base, with more robust track assets being installed to recover asset condition and improve reliability following a long period of underinvestment in the 1990s.
“We also continue to invest in mechanisation to drive efficiency by increasing output and therefore helping to lower the unit rates of renewal delivery.
“The more modern asset base has a reduced maintenance requirement due to less failure modes, and this has supported the transition from a reactive to preventative maintenance approach, resulting in a lower overall cost to maintain the assets.”
Its press office has yet to reply to my email of September 29th asking “whether track replacement is being slowed in order to help reduce expenditure as part of the savings the Mayor has tasked TfL with finding?”
However today we learn that plans to order new Northern and Jubilee line trains have been “paused”.
Once again LU suggests sudden innovation means investment can be dialled down, claiming:
“Our modernisation programme and in-depth technical work by our new combined engineering division has improved performance and reliability.
“This means we can increase the frequency of our existing trains without the immediate need for new trains, making journeys quicker and more comfortable for thousands of customers every day.”
However unions clearly aren’t happy and there’s a real danger that Sadiq’s fares freeze – which is one of the reasons TfL is having to find savings in the first place – starts to look like it’s depriving the network of much needed investment.
Update: Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is the line Conservatives at City Hall are pushing.
Following news that the train order has been parked in the sidings, transport spokesman Keith Prince issued the following statement:
“We are now seeing the impact of Sadiq Khan’s misleading ‘fares freeze’, which blew a £640million hole in TfL’s budget despite offering no benefit whatsoever to millions of travelcard users.
“The Mayor’s financial mismanagement has already led to the tightening of budgets across TfL and now the cancellation of what was previously described as ‘vital’ upgrade work.
“This is disastrous news for the thousands of passengers who use the Northern and Jubilee lines on a daily basis and a worrying sign for the future of vital transport investment in London.”