This article was originally published on the Off The Rails blog, Tubeworker's sister blog for mainline railway workers, here.
Between 2010 and 2015, the Tories cut government funding to TfL by over a third. In November last year, they announced that from 2016 they would cut up to £700 million a year from TfL’s grant for running costs with a view to stopping government subsidy of TfL altogether by 2021.
This is an attack on transport as a public service. Tubeworker believes transport should be a publicly-funded service that is accessible and affordable (free in fact!), funded by taxing the rich. The Tories, in contrast, do not believe in public services. They are happy to see transport funded entirely by the people who use it, meaning it is accessible only to people who can afford high fares. It has long been the Tories’ objective to make London’s transport entirely self-funded through fares revenue. If the Tories get their way by 2021, London will be the only major city in Europe without a subsidised transport network.
The latest funding cut also means that major attacks on our jobs, pay and pensions lie ahead. The cuts will target only the grant that TfL uses for day-to-day running costs (i.e. our jobs and wages), not the grant that TfL uses for upgrades and long-term investment.
This is in line with recent Tory policy. In the last few years the Tories have cut funding to TfL overall but increased the pot of money available for upgrades. The government is committed to increasing capacity and investing in technology that will reduce future staff costs. The government is also happy to invest in upgrades as a way of ploughing public money into the coffers of Bombardier, Balfour Beatty and other private firms that deliver the contracts. The latest announcement leaves funding for Crossrail, driverless trains and new signalling systems intact. As the Tories divert what little remains of public transport funding into private hands, savings will be found from day-to-day services. The services that passengers rely on will suffer. The jobs, wages and conditions of those of us who deliver these services are in the firing line.
We need to fight urgently for public ownership and public funding for transport. Our wages, jobs and conditions should not be at the mercy of a government that will only provide funding to enrich private contractors. If transport is run with public service, not private profit, in mind then there should be enough public money for services that meet passengers’ needs and for well-paid staff too. Workers and passengers have the same interests and need to work together in a campaign that includes political and industrial struggle.