The Tory government has savagely cut Transport for London’s funding. TfL will lose £700m per year over the next five years, and from this coming year onwards, it will receive no public grants towards its operations.
This will make London the only capital city in Europe – and one of the only cities in the world – that receives no government funding towards its operations. Aside from a small income from things like advertising and rent, urban public transport systems have only two sources of income: grants and fares. Scrapping the operating grant means that the whole cost of running London’s transport will fall on farepayers.
Other cities do not run their transport like this.
In France, employers pay a tax – a percentage of their total wage bill – which goes straight to the local transport system. Some rural areas have used this to make public transport free; urban areas like Paris use it as a funding base which is then supplemented by fares, which are considerably lower than in London.
New York and other US cities fund their transport systems through a variety of taxes – on petrol, on business, on sales – as well as issuing bonds secured against future revenues.
From Bucharest to Berlin, urban public transport gets public subsidy. Similar funding systems could operate in London.
Better ways of funding the Tube
Millions of pounds change hands in the City of London every day. Landlords charge a fortune for homes and business premises that boast decent transport links. Companies across the capital make money from the labours of their workers and the spending of their customers – both brought to them by our public transport system. Why not make them pay?
Because the Conservatives are the party of the City, the landlords and of big business. And they don’t want their mates to foot the bill.
What will result?
Unless we turn back this funding cut, we face cuts to jobs, services and standards.
We can anticipate Fit for the Future – This, That and the Other. We can expect further reductions in staffing levels and cuts to the frequency of maintenance checks; tightening the screw on discipline and attendance; and maybe a shot at our pensions. Projects that could have improved the service and created jobs will be scrapped.
And in 2019, management will not be generous with our pay offer – we will have to fight for every penny.
Where is the Mayor?
Londoners elected a Labour Mayor because they did not want cuts. And yet Sadiq Khan is implementing these cuts without barely a protest.
TfL has already ordered a review of London Overground, with the intended outcome of closing ticket offices and cutting staff numbers and conditions.
The Labour Party’s grassroots membership will not be happy with this capitulation to cuts. Three-quarters of London members have joined Labour since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, indicating that they want a more left-wing, pro-working-class party.
Where Tube workers have raised the issue of cuts within the Labour Party, they have received enthusiastic support. For example, Hackney South and Shoreditch Constituency Labour Party agreed unanimously to campaign against the London Overground cuts.
If you are a Labour member, raise the issue at your next meeting. Tubeworker is happy to help you with this. If not, then join! If you are in a Labour-affiliated union – TSSA, ASLEF or Unite – then get your union to raise this issue within the Labour Party. If you are in RMT, then this is just one more reason for the union to re-affiliate to Labour.
We can also ally with passenger groups, communities, and disabled people’s campaigns.
TfL workers have great potential power to stop these cuts. If we wait to be attacked, and battle each attack as it comes, then we will be sliced off salami-style, and although we may win some, we will lose some too. We will be much stronger if we pull together a united, co-ordinated plan of action – all grades, all TfL companies, all unions.
Tubeworker is pleased to see that RMT’s London Transport Regional Council has agreed to host a rank-and-file conference in the new year to plan its fightback. This could be the launch of a movement that can stop the cuts.