Deal for Transport for London crucial - GulfToday

Deal for Transport for London crucial


Photo used for illustrative purpose.

Ed Miliband, The Independent

This week will be crucial for green transport and anyone who believes in a zero carbon future. It is the week when the government’s current short-term funding arrangement with Transport for London (TfL) expires.

Without a new deal, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and TfL have warned they will have no option but to cut bus services by 18 per cent and Tube services by nine per cent. That means up to 100 bus routes gone and an entire Tube line could be axed, with people inevitably forced back into their cars with congestion and rising safety concerns.

This situation is much more than a row between the mayor of London and a Conservative government. It cuts to the heart of essential questions about whether we are serious about the climate emergency.

Is the summit of our ambition simply to put a green coat of paint on an unfair, unequal economy or do we have the imagination and boldness to deliver a Green New Deal for the just and fair transformation of our economy and society that people are desperately crying out for? And do we recognise that this transformation cannot be built from Whitehall alone, but by local leaders and communities across our country?

The simple truth is that Sadiq Khan has twice been elected on a mandate to improve the capital’s public transport infrastructure so that it is cleaner and cheaper for London’s residents. Voters have put their trust in this plan because they know that public transport is essential for our economy, benefits ordinary Londoners, and is the best choice for our environment.It is therefore inexcusable that a government that claims to respect both the net zero agenda and devolution would seek to undermine the mayor’s mandate.

These cuts would mean Khan would not be able to meet his target of making London’s fleet of 9,000 buses all zero-emission by 2030. Diesel buses would continue to be operated, needlessly polluting the capital’s streets and damaging Londoners’ lungs.

Furthermore, the mayor’s goal of making London the first carbon-neutral city of its size by 2030 would be put in peril. Khan has already taken huge strides to bring down emissions and clean up London’s air through the introduction and expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, a fivefold increase in dedicated cycle lanes and a huge programme to retrofit homes and business premises.

The threat to TFL also ignores the reality of the effects of the pandemic, which has put its finances in dire straits. During the first long lockdown, passenger numbers plummeted by 95 per cent and TfL was losing £100 million pounds per week. Most Londoners weren’t going to the office but services had to be maintained so key workers could get to work and save lives.

TfL is appealing for long-term sustainable deal, to keep a 19th-century network, in need of constant investment, running safely. Despite having cut costs in the preceding five years and shelved several major improvement projects, it received nothing, with no explanation from the government. The threatened cuts to transport in London are not an isolated example. They come alongside a betrayal of the North on transport, with Tory promises about northern powerhouse rail wilfully broken. I believe that transport in the North is underfunded compared to the rest of the country, and this needs putting right.

But the way to address this is to raise investments and ambition for every region — not to level down with cuts to vital services.

Failure to invest in London and in the North of England weakens our economy, threatens our environment and undermines the services people desperately need. It holds back our businesses and manufacturers throughout our country, which have a huge opportunity to produce the zero-emission vehicles of the future. This is also a profound issue of social justice, because we know the refusal to invest sufficiently in public transport will hit those who can least afford it. Building modern public transport systems is an essential route to economic justice; it is a right to which every community across the country should be entitled.

There is a wider lesson here about how we build the coalition we need across society to tackle the climate emergency. People in London and across the country want us to act, but the transition will only be fair, and we will only take people with us, if we invest in an alternative future.

Communities across the country are electing local leaders with strong democratic mandates to deliver Green New Deals and bold climate plans. The government cannot claim to respect the net zero agenda or devolution unless it lets elected local leaders lead.

The mayor has shown himself willing to work across party lines on a new deal for TfL. Yet Ministers are putting the capital’s transport system in peril, putting party political interests above the needs of the economy and environment.

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