Scrap Silvertown Tunnel to save TfL, says Lib Dem mayoral candidate

Siobhan Benita says the tunnel plan should be dropped. Picture: LDRS

Siobhan Benita says the tunnel plan should be dropped. Picture: LDRS - Credit: Archant

The £1b Silvertown Tunnel project should be scrapped to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of Transport for London, one of the figures vying to be Mayor of London has said.

Siobhan Benita, the Liberal Democrat candidate for next year’s mayoral election, also warned of fare rises being forced onto passengers, after TfL confirmed it would receive a £1.6b emergency bailout from the government.

In a statement after the announcement, Benita said “hardworking Londoners are going to pay even more” as a result of the deal.

“This bailout was essential but it has come with expensive conditions. TfL’s finances were in a mess before this pandemic and that seems to have weakened the Mayor’s hand in negotiations with the government. But ultimately, it is hardworking Londoners who are going to foot the bill – with forced increases in fares, concessions scrapped and major improvement projects under threat,” she said.

“We now need radical action to secure the long-term financial sustainability of TfL, including scrapping the £1bn polluting Silvertown Tunnel project and spreading the revenue-raising burden from public transport passengers to drivers, by introducing smart road pricing in the capital.”

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The £1.6b will keep bus and Tube services running until September.

According to the BBC, the bailout included London Mayor Sadiq Khan agreeing to increase bus and Tube fares by one per cent above inflation.

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Ahead of the bailout, TfL had seriously faced the prospect of being issued a Section 114 notice – the equivalent of a public body going bust.

Following the news, London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown MVO said measures taken to combat the coronavirus had seen revenue fall by 90 per cent.

“We have been operating up to 70 per cent of peak Tube services and over 80 per cent of bus services with many of our staff ill, shielding or in self isolation. From next week we will further increase services beyond this as we progressively build towards restoring services to pre-covid levels,” Mr Brown said.

“Enormous challenges remain, including agreeing longer term sustainable funding for transport in the capital. In the meantime, we will continue to do everything in our power to help deliver a successful recovery for our great city.”

He also praised transport staff working on the frontline throughout the pandemic.

“London’s transport network is absolutely fundamental to the economic, social and environmental health of the capital. Throughout the pandemic, transport workers have played a heroic role in the response to the virus –ensuring NHS and care staff have been able to get to work and save lives,” he said.

TfL has run reduced bus and timetables throughout the coronavirus crisis, but the body was forced to furlough about 7,000 – about 25 per cent of its total workforce – several weeks ago amid growing financial pressure.

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