The Government has recently had to step in and provide Transport for London with £1.095 billion of new grant funding and a further loan facility of £505 million, in order to keep vital public transport services running in London, and to increase the number of services to facilitate social distancing.
This is as a result of not only the Covid-19 pandemic but also the pre-existing poor condition of TfL’s financial position as a result of decisions made over the last 4 years.
As part of this bailout, it was agreed by the Mayor of London that conditions will include the temporary suspension of free travel for under-18s all day. After the Mayor agreed to the bailout for Transport for London, he immediately blamed the government for free travel for under-18s being temporarily suspended. However, a letter from the Transport Secretary to the Mayor revealed that Sadiq Khan's Deputy Mayor of Transport was directly asked if she agreed with pausing the concession – which she did.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is working closely with TfL on how the temporary suspension of free travel for under-18s can be operationalised, while at the same time ensuring that those children who are eligible for free home to school travel still receive this. I understand that the DfT is also undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment to consider whether there are further categories of vulnerable children that should receive free transport.
This is a disappointing situation. However, these conditions are necessary to put TfL back on a sustainable footing while ensuring fairness for the wider British taxpayer.
To make sure these sorts of drastic actions can be avoided in future, a Government-led review into TfL's future financial position and structure will begin immediately.