London's iconic red buses under threat in pandemic funding crisis, warns Mayor

by IANS |

London, Jan 18 (IANS) London's famous red buses are in danger of being forced off the streets in a funding row between City Hall and the British government, Mayor Sadiq Khan warned on Monday.

Khan said that the continued electrification of London's bus fleet is also under threat, with the date for a zero-emission fleet likely to slip till at least 2037, Xinhua news agency reported.

Khan outlined on Monday how tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs that support the Transport for London (TfL) supply chain across the country would be at risk if projects are delayed due to lack of funding.

He warned that if government ministers do not fund TfL properly, the repercussions will be felt across the country.

TfL has already paused awarding new bus contracts since early November last year, while 1,000 new red buses owned by TfL are also currently due their mid-life refurbishment.

"If the government fails to provide the funding required, TfL may be unable to refurbish these buses and, along with potential bus service cuts under a managed decline scenario, may need to be removed from the roads," Khan warned.

He said that the transport system is not only fundamental to London's success, but to driving economic prosperity right across the length and breadth of the country.

"It is no exaggeration to say that tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs will be at risk if ministers fail to properly fund TfL. In addition, our strides towards bus electrification will be halted, and the capital will suffer with fewer buses on the roads and an unreliable Tube service with aging trains," he said.

City Hall said the government only provided a short-term pandemic funding deal that lasts until February 4.

When the pandemic hit, with Londoners staying home to stop the spread of coronavirus, passenger numbers on London's public transport system plummeted by 95 per cent, leading to a devastating impact on TfL's finances.

TfL said 72 per cent of its operating income comes from fares, whereas it is only 38 per cent in New York or Paris.

"Without a clear commitment to provide sufficient long-term funding, or continued short-term deals, TfL is currently having to plan on the basis of a managed decline of the capital's public transport network," a City Hall spokesperson said.

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