To fix public transport in Britain we should copy France - GulfToday

To fix public transport in Britain we should copy France

UK-Transport-

Photo used for illustrative purpose.

Jon Stone, The Independent

Transport for London (TfL) has been hanging by a thread since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Fare revenues first collapsed when the country was locked down, but now commuters have developed a taste for working from home, the fare box is yet to fully recover.

The situation is particularly difficult for TfL, because unlike most transport systems around the world, it funds its operations from the fare box, with no day-to-day subsidy from the government.

Since TfL’s source of funding collapsed, the Department for Transport has been stringing the tube and bus operator along: giving it temporary deals and bailouts to tide it over every few months. The result has been depressing and destructive: work on projects ranging from new tube trains to protected cycle infrastructure has stalled, with no clear, long-term funding paths paralysing one of the country’s transport success stories.

Sadiq Khan says the government needs to stop dreaming and restore proper funding to TfL permanently: it received a block grant until quite recently, when it was abolished by George Osborne. The government does not want to – reluctant to spend cash, especially on a city that stubbornly refuses to vote for it.

That the transport operator ever financed itself from fare revenues in the first place was an impressive feat of efficiency, but the result of that balancing act, even before the pandemic, was some of the highest fares in the world. Transport for London (TfL) has been hanging by a thread since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Fare revenues first collapsed when the country was locked down, but now commuters have developed a taste for working from home, the fare box is yet to fully recover.

The situation is particularly difficult for TfL, because unlike most transport systems around the world, it funds its operations from the fare box, with no day-to-day subsidy from the government.

Since TfL’s source of funding collapsed, the Department for Transport has been stringing the tube and bus operator along: giving it temporary deals and bailouts to tide it over every few months. The result has been depressing and destructive: work on projects ranging from new tube trains to protected cycle infrastructure has stalled, with no clear, long-term funding paths paralysing one of the country’s transport success stories.

Sadiq Khan says the government needs to stop dreaming and restore proper funding to TfL permanently: it received a block grant until quite recently, when it was abolished by George Osborne. The government does not want to – reluctant to spend cash, especially on a city that stubbornly refuses to vote for it.

That the transport operator ever financed itself from fare revenues in the first place was an impressive feat of efficiency, but the result of that balancing act, even before the pandemic, was some of the highest fares in the world.

In France, urban public transport is funded by a system called the “versement transport” or VT. Under this system, cities can levy an employer payroll tax (think employers’ national insurance) of up to 2 per cent on companies with more than 11 employees. The result is that businesses that benefit from public transport end up contributing to it.

It turns out you can do a lot with this cash: in the Ile-de-France, Paris’s equivalent of the Greater London area, around 40 per cent of transport funding is provided by the VT – with the cash used to keep fares low and invest in new lines. As a result a monthly pass giving unlimited travel on all public transport in the wider Paris region costs just €75 (£62), under half that of London.

In France, urban public transport is funded by a system called the “versement transport” or VT. Under this system, cities can levy an employer payroll tax (think employers’ national insurance) of up to 2 per cent on companies with more than 11 employees. The result is that businesses that benefit from public transport end up contributing to it.

It turns out you can do a lot with this cash: in the Ile-de-France, Paris’s equivalent of the Greater London area, around 40 per cent of transport funding is provided by the VT — with the cash used to keep fares low and invest in new lines.

Related articles