THE number of passengers using Transport for London services would have returned to 82 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by the spring if the Omicron variant had not caused new restrictions to be imposed, according to TfL, which said other problems it faces are ‘soaring inflation’ and rising energy prices.
TfL’s latest Budget Update says its revenue shortfall is set to be £1.5 billion a year until 2025 at least, while several major projects have been interrupted or cancelled, including improvements to signalling on the Piccadilly Line. It warns that ‘the current proposals achieve a balanced budget but do not progress desired outcomes on decarbonisation, active travel, step free access and other mportant programmes'.
The Update was published three days before TfL’s current funding settlement expires on Friday.
The Railway Industry Association warned that 'there is no increased visibility of rail project work'. RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said: ‘Today’s update from TfL provides an optimistic picture of passengers returning to the rail network, reaching more than 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels by Easter, if it wasn’t for the restrictions imposed due to Omicron. Yet, in start contrast, the update also shows London’s transport system facing severe economic strain ahead.
‘Given the inevitable return of passenger numbers, now is clearly not the time to kick vital upgrades to London’s rail and tube network into the long grass. Otherwise passengers and businesses, both in London and across the UK, will begin to see the impacts of this funding uncertainty for TfL – and a lack of investment in rail upgrades – and this in turn risks undermining the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
‘What is clear to everyone is that the Government and Mayor of London need to agree a long-term multi-year rail funding deal, beyond half-yearly or annual settlements, to give certainty to the railway industry so it can plan, build and maintain world-class rail in London, at the best possible price for the taxpayer. Only by doing this will London’s transport system be able to support the millions of people who – both now and in the longer term – want to work, visit friends and family, and enjoy leisure and hospitality in the capital.’