London Assembly members have expressed “concern” over falling fares income at Transport for London and suggest that the Mayor’s four year fares freeze is depriving the agency of the investment it needs.
At last year’s election, Sadiq Khan pledged an absolute freeze on fares for the duration of the current Mayoral term, rejecting claims by opponents that such a move would weaken investment.
However since coming to office, the Mayor has overseen cuts to a number of upgrade schemes, including plans to buy new trains for the Northern and Jubilee lines and slashing funding on track replacements.
Assembly Members say the decision to cut such improvements “is at odds” with the Mayor’s manifesto commitment to fund his fares policy “by making TfL a more efficient, and profitable operation, not by cuts to spending on better services and more capacity.”
TfL’s recently published business plan shows that capital spending is now set to fall each year until the 2021/22 financial year, with spending significantly below the levels published just 12 months ago.
In a cross-party report by the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee, AMs say: “We suspect that the Mayor’s fares freeze has contributed to this situation.”
The agency’s own figures show that fares income for the current year is £64m below projections, with a shortfall of £13m in the most recent reporting period.
The gap is largely down to a fall in passenger numbers, including on the Tube which has seen 29m fewer journeys than expected.
There are fears that a failure to deliver previously promised upgrades will damage the Tube’s ability to boost capacity, further weakening TfL’s ability to invest in future service improvements.
AMs warn: “Because the Tube is TfL’s only profitable service, cutting investment there will limit TfL’s ability to make the profit it needs to reinvest in other parts of London’s public transport system.”
The report also states: “If TfL was receiving more income in fares revenue it would be better placed to invest in its capital programme.”
With fares income significantly below expectations for the second year in a row, AMs say they now “lack confidence in TfL’s ability to provide robust and realistic forecasts.”