Imagine the bus, tram or train route you use to travel to school or work being cancelled. For some of us, that would mean that commute times would double, or that journeys would only be realistically possible by car. That would be disastrous for a decent proportion of Greater London’s population, and even more so for those who live on the fringes of the city, in areas such as Epsom and Caterham, and while it may seem like this is improbable, it’s the exact situation unfolding before us right now.
TFL’s revenues were £1.2 billion below the expectations this year, and they need £500 million to run only until April of 2022. However, talks between the government and TFL have been unfruitful so far, with the latter even considering cutting services- nearly 20% of buses and almost 10% of Tube services. Without a long-term deal from the government, London’s public transport risks receding into the levels of the 1970s and 1980s. And to make the situation even worse, train lines key to business like the Bakerloo and Jubilee are allegedly at most risk, with smaller lines like the DLR and the Overground also being apparently at risk. This means that regional inequalities just within London are going to become exacerbated, with the Jubilee and DLR lines, which both serve areas of East London which are currently seeing economic renewal, being in a precarious situation, and, as for the city as a whole, its post-pandemic recovery will be heavily hindered by poor transport links- as the mayor, Sadiq Khan, said, ‘you don’t get a national recovery without a London recovery.’
The other topical problem with potential TfL cuts is the environmental one- in the wake of COP26, the government should closely consider the contribution to climate change reduction the nation’s largest city will have. Fewer bus services in particular will mean that those who live in the suburbs of London will resort to using their cars, leading to more congestion and pollution, and the replacement of old London buses with hydrogen-powered ones will probably be slowed down. As the nation emerges from the pandemic in a hopeful ‘green recovery’, the government will have to carefully consider the implications of leaving the transport of the nation’s economic heavyweight city to the dogs.