‘Profligate’ London Mayor Sadiq Khan was slammed by passengers who crammed on to the packed Tube again today after he agreed to ramp up services in return for a £1.6billion taxpayer-funded bailout.
Mr Khan had said Transport for London was hours from going bust and blamed Boris Johnson for no social distancing on trains by easing the lockdown this week.
Ministers last night agreed to hand the Labour Mayor a £1.1billion grant plus £505million in loans with ‘strings attached’ to get London’s transport system back up and running – hours after Mr Khan was accused of blackmail and repeatedly asking for £2billion in return for getting services back up to 70 per cent of pre-crisis levels by Monday.
A Government source has attacked Mr Khan as a ‘profligate’ mayor ‘who had let money go to waste’ after four years of fare freezes. ‘There are a lot of strings attached,’ the insider added, including future ticket price hikes and curtailing free travel for the over-60s.
It came as
Sadiq Khan hit back today calling the £1.6billion deal a ‘sticking plaster’ and ‘the Government has forced Londoners to pay a very heavy price for doing the right thing’ in lockdown with sources claiming they believe they cash will run out again in 80 days.
He said: ‘We are running as many services as humanly possible given the number of staff off sick, shielding or self-isolating. As staff are returning to work we are increasing services as fast as possible to get back to 100%. From Monday, we aim to run around 85% of buses, 75% of Tubes, restore the Circle line and re-open some of the 37 closed stations’.
Millions have returned to work this week and the number of passengers on the London Underground is up ten per cent in a week, leading to ‘dangerous’ conditions because services have been running at as low as 15 per cent of capacity.
Commuter Michael Maggs tweeted a picture of a packed Tube carriage at 6am this morning and said: ‘@SadiqKhan how we meant to social distance with your terrible service you are running. Had to wait 15 mins to get in this. You are putting lives at risk’.
Catholic Priest Father Grant Ciccone posted this picture of the packed Jubilee Line this morning as the first working week as the lockdown eased ends today
Commuter Michael Maggs tweeted this picture of a packed Tube carriage at 6am this morning and said: ‘@SadiqKhan how we meant to social distance with your terrible service you are running. Had to wait 15 mins to get in this. You are putting lives at risk’.
Traffic coming into London on the A4 was also busy this morning as more and more people return to work if they can’t do it at home
Apple Mobility data shows that travel is down in London since the lockdown began – but is creeping upwards when services are not
How is Transport for London funded and why did Mayor Khan claim it would go bust without a bailout?
Transport for London claims the coronavirus crisis will lead to losses of £4billion and is costing them £600million a month.
Its £2.2billion reserves are said to be down to £1.2billion and going down further. To cut costs bosses have put 7,000 staff on the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme.
Just under half of TfL’s annual £10billion income comes from fares, with £4.9billion spent each year on buses, trains and Tube services.
But because of the lockdown this income is down 95 per cent over the last eight weeks and predicted to be low until the autumn as more people work from home, tourists stay away and the nighttime economy being decimated.
The next largest source of income is grants from the Government, for which it is paid £3.4billion-a-year, including to pay for building the Crossrail project.
TfL also makes £1.2billion a year from the congestion charge, but this £11.50 per vehicle charge has been suspended through the pandemic.
It also brings hundreds of millions a year from advertising and renting out shops in its stations.
Sadiq Khan has said that TfL may be forced to issue a Section 114 notice – issued when a public body going bust.
But Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, said: ‘Sadiq Khan has failed in his job as chairman of Transport for London. Coronavirus highlighted existing structural flaws within TfL’s balance sheet – it is not the primary cause.
‘It is simply wrong for Sadiq Khan to then use Londoners – and key workers, making critical journeys – as collateral to get a bailout to cover his mismanagement and bad decision making.
‘The past four years have proven Khan cannot be handed a blank cheque. As a condition for any bailout, Khan must show Londoners how he will rebuild TfL’s finances once the virus recedes’.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said he ‘wouldn’t’ get on a busy tube train.
Mr Lewis told LBC that he ‘would probably think about finding a bike and jumping on a Boris bike and cycling across London’.
Asked whether the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan blackmailed the Government into giving more money to TfL, Mr Lewis said: ‘Look I think the public around London can inform their own views around the appropriateness of the way the current Mayor acts.
‘I would like to make sure and see a Mayor who is focused on delivering for the people of London.’
Pushed on whether there will be exemptions to the 14-day quarantine period for people including business travellers, Mr Lewis said: ‘There will be a 14-day quarantine. What we’re looking at is the exemptions which are appropriate and are safe to put in place to ensure it is practical as well as safe.’
Fears have been rising for workers packed on to Tube and buses that are running at a significantly reduced capacity as Boris Johnson encouraged people to go back to work.
Government sources said the mayor had demanded £2billion but was turned down ‘several times’. The sides have settled for a £1.1billion package plus £505m in loans which ‘will need to be paid back’.
As part of the agreement, TfL will have to restore full services ‘as soon as possible’ although there is no fixed timetable, and the government will also approve advertising on TfL. ‘He will be taking ‘stay alert’ not ‘stay at home’,’ the source said.
TfL will have to report on staff absences, which are currently said to be running at 20 per cent.
There will also be a central government review of TfL’s finances and fares will increase by RPI plus 1 per cent, breaking the Mayor’s previous pledge to a freeze on fare rises, according to the source.
‘We were always prepared to put money into keeping Tube and bus services running in London and help the travelling public stay safe from coronavirus but we were not prepared to accept ludicrous demands from a profligate mayor, and this money comes with many strings attached,’ the source said.
Mr Khan is seeking re-election in the mayoral election postponed to next year although he is the runaway favourite to be turned to City Hall. Any price rise for travel is likely to be jumped upon by some of his opponents, but the Tories claim that his decision to freeze prices for four years fuelled the current TfL cash crisis.
Mr Khan has announced that he will increase Tube services in London to 70 per cent of normal on Monday – but only after threatening to cut Tube, train and bus services unless the Government stumped up cash.
He claimed that TFL would go bust unless the Government hands over cash to fill the £4billion black hole coronavirus has left in its finances because of an 80 per cent plunge in income from fares, advertising and the congestion charge.
But Mr Shapps said that the mayor would have to increase capacity back to 100 per cent ‘very quickly as people are starting to travel more, it is very, very important that we do not have overcrowding’.
TfL was already losing millions each month before the coronavirus and is billions in debt after Mr Khan’s decision to freeze fares every year since he was elected in 2016. He has also been accused of being too soft on militant transport unions and having the worst average strikes record of any Mayor.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured in Downing Street in March) has launched an extraordinary attack on Boris Johnson and also warned he will cut Tube, train and bus services unless the PM agrees an emergency bailout by the end of today
Signs like these have been appearing at Tube stations – but more and more people are following instructions to head to work
The Central Line was dangerously rammed with commuters who had no choice but to go to work in packed carriages
Industry sources have claimed TfL is losing £600million a month during the crisis and wants £2billion in taxpayer-funded support even though bosses have £1.2billion in their cash reserves.
Mr Khan told LBC: ‘Unless the government today gives us confirmation of the grant that we need, the consequences could be quite severe and the implications for all of us will be huge. The only way to balance the books is to cut services’.
Former Tory minister Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, told MailOnline: ‘An extraordinary remark. He is threatening the health of Londoners by saying this sort of thing. We need to get the networks, the Tube and the London suburban network back up to full capacity. the mayor should concentrate on running as big a service as possible so people can travel socially distanced and in as responsible a way as possible.’
There has also been anger over Mr Khan’s comments on LBC yesterday morning, with one listener saying: ‘He is trying to blackmail the government and yes he is prepared to use the health and safety of London’s key workers as collateral for a bailout of his transport service’, while another critic tweeted: ‘It’s blackmail – just as people start to return to work’.
Mr Khan also suggested that the PM is to blame for the congestion on the Tube this week after tearing up an agreement that people would return to work from this coming Monday and bringing it forward a week at two hours’ notice.
Mr Khan told LBC: ‘Many of our staff are shielding, self-isolating or ill. We got to a stage where plan that we worked out with the Department for Transport and from Monday May 18 we would increase Tube services to 75 per cent and ramp it up again in three weeks. And then on Sunday we were presented with a fait accompli. I was in a Cobra meeting two hours before where he [Boris Johnson] told us this was his plan’.
The Mayor of London revealed that Tube passenger numbers are up 10 per cent today on last week – admitting that thousands more people were trying to get on trains. When asked about the shocking pictures of cramped carriages this morning he said: ‘It’s deeply upsetting. The reality is that every time somebody interacts with somebody on the street, in a shop or on a train it can increase the spread. That’s why we are urging people to stay at home’.
He also said employers should be taking responsibility for the lack of social distancing on public transport, by refusing to accept that ‘fear’ is a good reason not to come back to work. Mr Khan said: ‘Londoners are being told to return to work unless they have a good reason. I can understand when you’re on a zero hours contract or your boss is telling you to get to work you may go in. That’s why I’m imploring the Government to put pressure on employers to stagger the start to the day I don’t want to undo the work’.
Data published by location technology firm TomTom showed there was more traffic in the UK’s major cities compared with the previous week.
The congestion level in London at 8am was 19%, up from 16% last week.
Other cities to experience an increase include Belfast (from 12% to 15%), Birmingham (from 9% to 11%), Cardiff (from 8% to 11%), Edinburgh (from 12% to 15%) and Manchester (from 10% to 13%).
The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.
The Cabinet Office today refused to comment on claims that they had dropped their transport trends slide from the daily coronavirus press conference over recent weeks to hide the fact many more people were getting into their cars or taking public transport. A spokesman told MailOnline that the slides are online daily – and that are not always shown because ministers and health chiefs may want to ‘focus on other things’.
Tube bosses have put up station signs telling commuters to ‘go home’ unless they are key workers despite Boris Johnson telling millions of Britons to return to work, it was revealed today.
Transport for London’s foreboding ‘go home’ messages came amid the growing row with Downing Street who insist trains must return to normal to revive the economy while the Mayor of London says that ‘lockdown has not been lifted’.