Transport for London says it’s still looking for a firm to sponsor this year’s free travel on New Years Eve, prompting accusations that the Mayor “is not on top of his job”.
Free travel was first introduced in 2001 to help ensure partygoers get home safely after seeing in the New Year and is usually sponsored by a major brand to hep offset the revenue lost by TfL.
A three-year deal with Diageo expired last year, but the organisation says it’s been unable to secure a replacement.
In 2010 Mayor Boris Johnson, who chairs the TfL board, was criticised after signing a deal with high interest loan provider Wonga which recently admitted to lending money without carrying out sufficient checks on borrowers.
Despite the lack of a sponsor, TfL says free travel on the Tube, buses, DLR and London Overground will still go ahead.
A spokesperson declined to say how much revenue the organisation would lose because of the lack of a deal, and said the need to ensure Londoners got home safely took precedence over any financial considerations.
Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL, said: “Londoners and visitors to the capital can be assured that they will be able to get home, for free, on our transport network this New Year’s Eve.
“This not only makes things easier for everyone enjoying their night out but also helps us to get London working again as soon as possible and get the city centre ready for the New Year’s Day parade.
“We haven’t yet secured sponsorship for this New Year’s Eve but we’re always seeking sponsorship to complement our operational business wherever we can and will continue to do so.”
News of TfL’s failure to secure a sponsor comes just weeks after City Hall admitted to MayorWatch that it had been unable to find anyone willing to sponsor the capital’s annual fireworks display.
Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, has criticised TfL and Mayor Boris Johnson for not admitting to a lack of sponsor failure sooner.
She said: “It is incredible that despite having three years to find a new sponsor TfL are finally admitting that with just 19 days until New Year’s Eve that they have no sponsor in place to pay for free travel that has long been provided on this evening.
“Why the Mayor of London, who chairs Transport for London, has not admitted to this beforehand raises a number of questions.
“The Mayor is failing to get the basics right.
“The fact that he has failed to find a sponsor for both the New Year’s Eve fireworks as well as for free travel on TfL services is a clear indicator that the Mayor is not on top of his job of serving Londoners.”
Labour’s Val Shawcross AM commented: “The Mayor’s New Year’s Eve preparations are descending into a total shambles. Boris has clearly taken his eye off the ball having not only failed to secure sponsorship for the New Year’s Eve fireworks but also for the night of free travel Londoners have come to expect.
“At the same time the Mayor is asking Londoners to pay to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, the taxpayer looks set to foot the bill for the Mayor’s failure to secure sponsorship. What nobody wants to see is London’s New Year’s fireworks or free travel being cut back as a result of Boris’ failure to attract sponsorship for these iconic events.
“It’s not like New Year’s Eve has crept up on the Mayor, he’s had the whole year to secure this sponsorship but seems to have been more interested in planning his return to Parliament than securing the best New Year’s Eve deal for Londoners.”