At present TFL is being ‘squeezed’.
On Friday, continued talks between TfL (Transport for London) and the government failed to secure a long-term funding deal. Negotiations are now ‘ongoing’ with no deadline dates. The Mayor of London’s office has also said they may have to effectively shut down a large part of London’s public transport if a funding deal is not agreed quickly. The pandemic caused a collapse in fares income, TfL has been supported by the government, keeping services running while the economy recovers from the lockdown.
Going forwards, the new future of work has massive implications for transport networks. Currently, TfL is dependent on fares for revenue – the onset of hybrid working and/or a four-day working week could leave a long-term massive hole in its finances. It’s worth remembering there’s often ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ when change does occur.
On a separate note, the Evening Standard on Friday warned an expected eight per cent pay rise for Tube staff will worsen its financial problems - TFL chiefs say they have “no viable alternative” to honouring the final year of a four-year deal that benefits about 16,500 underground drivers and station staff, but which will reportedly cost up to £100m to implement.
In normal times, the tube makes an operational profit, while buses apparently make an operational loss, which coincidentally is roughly equivalent to the surplus made by the tube. If TfL is forced to run at a loss, then it’s entirely possible that the cuts could fall heaviest on the commuter bus network to try and balance the books.
These two separate (but connected) events, raise several issues:
Firstly, for TFL: any kind of ‘change’ i.e. a pandemic, promotes potential conflict – whether level of service, finances or jobs. Previous agreements ‘can’ be revisited by making new, realistic proposals that address the issues.
Secondly, for the union bosses: a win for one group of unions, (the tube staff wage increases), might be at the expense of another (cutbacks for the bus network). How does this affect the perspective of the wider collective group?
Thirdly, for the government: maybe the future of transport and our new way of working demands a different way of funding public transport.
Change is more often than not the catalyst for commercial conflict, parties need to take a holistic view – to achieve long lasting agreements we need to address all the relevant issues, not just the immediate ones.
Maybe we should get all the stakeholders and their issues round the same table (Government, TFL and the unions), at the same time?
Savage Macbeth would of course be happy to help!
Sam Macbeth, 21st February 2022