Thursday, 13 December 2018

Transport for London

Major London Transport upgrades shelved amid TfL financial crisis

Sadiq Khan’s proposed pedestrianisation of Oxford Street has been abandoned - while a likely end to his fares freeze emerged as the biggest consequence of the financial crisis at Transport for London.

Long-awaited upgrades to Camden Town station and the “deep level” Tube lines such as the Piccadilly line have also been shelved as passengers were warned of an above-inflation hike in fares. TfL confirmed on the 12 December, that the £43m earmarked to pedestrianise the western end of Oxford Street had been reallocated to other “healthy streets” projects, such as the CS9 cycle superhighway in Chiswick, the CS4 superhighway in Greenwich and the CS1 in Hackney.

Pedestrianising Oxford Street was one of Sadiq Khan’s mayoral manifesto promises in 2016 but Westminster council blocked his plans in April. The Tory-run council has brought forward alternative plans to keep the street open to vehicles but “significantly reduce” the number of buses and potentially ban taxis and cars at peak times.

A TfL spokesman said: “Following Westminster City Council’s sudden, unexpected and unilateral decision to abandon our joint plans to transform Oxford Street and its district, we have now re-allocated funding which was allocated to the scheme to help accelerate a number of schemes across London designed to create safer, healthier and less polluted streets. These include new high-quality cycle routes in Greenwich, Hackney and Hounslow.”

Caroline Pidgeon, a Lib-Dem member of the London Assembly, said: “It is bitterly disappointing to have formal confirmation that the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street has now been kicked into the long grass. Oxford Street will only prosper and remain a globally attractive shopping centre if it becomes a safe and attractive place to walk - and that means pedestrianising it.”

The changes emerge in TfL’s new five-year budget, which “assumes” there will be a fares hike equivalent to the RPI rate of inflation plus one per cent from 2021. RPI is currently 3.3 per cent. This could add at least 15p onto every Tube journey.

Mr Khan’s spokesman said any change in fares, most of which have been frozen since 2016, would be announced at a later date.

TfL commissioner Mike Brown said there were “three big external factors” behind the anticipated fares hike - the loss of the £700m a year Government subsidy, “macroeconomic conditions” that have reduced journeys, particularly off-peak bus travel, and the £600m black hole in TfL income caused by a delay of up to two years in opening Crossrail. About 2,000 jobs at TfL could be at risk as it seeks to cut running costs by 30 per cent.

Upgrades at Bank, Holborn and Elephant and Castle will proceed, as will step-free access at Finsbury Park, Hanger Lane and Wimbledon Park. Junctions such as Old Street, Vauxhall Gyratory and Highbury Corner will be made safer.

Referring to fares, Mr Brown said: “There is no question of changing anything until the next mayoralty. Clearly any new mayor, whether it’s the current one or another, would look at the overall conditions.”