Transport for London appears to have reversed its opposition to selling off Tube station names.
Last month the Conservative group on the London Assembly suggested TfL and the Mayor consider allowing companies such as Harrod’s to sponsor tube stations they were already associated with.
A report published by the group also urged them to consider selling naming rights to new stations, an opportunity the report said could be more attractive to brands, and so more lucrative for TfL, than renaming an existing station.
Proceeds from such deals could be used to minimise fare increases, or even fund fare freezes.
Transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy had initially dismissed the proposals as unworkable.
In a written report to the TfL board. Sir Peter said: “the considerable cost of changing maps and announcements on the Tube network for sponsorship of individual stations or lines means that type of deal is simply not feasible.”
However addressing the board on Wednesday, Sir Peter appeared to suggest that TfL would consider a bid from a major company able to match Emirate airline’s £35m sponsorship of the cable car.
He told board members that price for securing naming rights would have to be “very, very big” while Mayor Johnson said there was “no in principle opposition” to the proposal.
The apparent softening of TfL’s approach was welcomed by Gareth Bacon AM who authored the Conservative group’s report.
Mr Bacon said: “Whilst TfL initially appeared to dismiss the idea as unworkable, discussions at today’s meeting showed an appetite for exploring this idea further. The fare paying public will be delighted. It is now vital that TfL take the initiative on this and proactively seek out potential sponsorship partners rather than sit back and wait for opportunities to turn up.”
Asked to confirm TfL’s official position, Director of Commercial Development Graeme Craig, said: “The Mayor has always said that, in principle, the sponsorship of Tube stations could happen if the sponsor was appropriate and the money being offered was of sufficient size to genuinely benefit fare and tax payers.
“Sponsorship would need to cover all the associated costs as well as generating material additional net income which could then be reinvested to improve the transport network for our customers. As always, we would be happy to talk to potential sponsors who are willing to offer sums of the right scale.”