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Thursday, Feb 25, 2021

UK PM launches scathing attack on London mayor for 'bankrupting' Transport for London

UK PM launches scathing attack on London mayor for 'bankrupting' Transport for London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of having “effectively bankrupted” Transport for London (TfL) before the pandemic hit, as coronavirus bailout negotiations turned into a fiery standoff.

Khan has called on the UK government to provide a £5.7 billion coronavirus relief package, as TfL falters with commuters staying at home and abandoning the capital’s transport network.

During his latest weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons, Johnson lashed out at Khan, claiming that “the current Mayor of London had effectively bankrupted Transport for London before coronavirus had even hit,” and arguing that “any other measure taken to improve the finances of TfL are entirely the responsibility” of the Labour politician.

In return, Khan has claimed that the government demanded that he increase fares, expand the size of the congestion zone and implement a slate of other revenue-raising efforts, which the mayor has so far rejected, as they would violate his key pledge to freeze the cost of single fares.

The government has threatened to take direct control of TfL if Khan rejects the measures proposed in return for bailout funds. The deadline for a deal to be agreed was initially set for last Friday, but has now been pushed back by another two weeks, with TfL set to hold an important board meeting on Wednesday with the London mayor.

The fiscal situation in the UK’s capital city is a personal issue for Johnson who, prior to his return to parliament and rise to prime minister, served as mayor of London for eight years from 2008-2016, leaving the city in, what he claims, was “robust health.” Khan hit back at the prime minister’s statement by accusing him of having “lied to the House of Commons” before defending his policies that he claims were in the process of “fixing his mess at TfL – reducing the deficit by 71 percent since 2016.”

Before the pandemic, TfL had cash reserves of £2.2 billion, but was facing sizable operating losses, with a plan to break even by 2021-2022. When coronavirus hit and the government ended the initial £1.6 billion funding and financing package for TfL that had been agreed back in May, the financial situation became bleak for the transport network.


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