Transport network estimates it is losing over half a billion due to coronavirus
Transport for London (TfL) could start running a reduced Saturday service on weekdays, as passenger numbers fall because of coronavirus.
The transport network said Tube usage is already down 19 per cent on last year, while bus use has fallen 10 per cent. The transport authority says fewer people are making journeys, and those who are travelling are taking fewer trips. There are fewer visitors to the capital, with fewer incoming trips from London’s airports. Fewer people have been using TfL services since October last year, due to economic uncertainty – and a series of storms in February also dented revenue before the impact of the latest government advice.
And despite reducing its £1.5 billion deficit, TfL still has a £200 million shortfall.
Based on Government modelling, it was predicting half a billion pounds in lost fares from coronavirus but this Monday (16 March) Boris Johnson issued new advice on the virus, telling everyone to practice social-distancing to prevent infection.
This means everyone should work from home where possible, avoid public places, and not have visitors – and the Government is advising against using public transport.
With passenger numbers on TfL likely to fall further as a result, Sadiq Khan said this Tuesday (17 March) that services could be reduced.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the he said: “What we may do over the course of the next few days is go to a Saturday or Sunday service during the week and then maybe even scale that down even more over the course of the next few days and weeks.”
But the Mayor said “basic” public transport remained essential for key workers like doctors, nurses and police.
The estimate loss of half a billion does not reflect the updated advice to avoid public transport – previously, the Government had been telling people to carry on with their daily lives, while taking sensible hygiene precautions.
This means the cost to the network could be higher – though reducing services would cut operating costs, and could balance out fare loss.
TfL chief finance officer Simon Kilonback has called on the Government for support.
He said, “We manage our finances prudently, and have reduced our deficit hugely in recent years. “This means that we can manage the impacts on our passenger numbers and finances that are currently envisaged.
“But, given the nature of the situation, we will be looking to the Government to provide appropriate financial support.
“We continue to follow and communicate Public Health England advice, including that there is no specific risk on public transport.”
TfL chief Mike Brown said: “We and our staff are doing everything we can to ensure that people who need to make essential journeys can continue to do so.
“Part of that involves matching service levels to the actual demand for travel. That work is underway and will evolve over time.
“In the meantime, we have upped our cleaning regime on the transport network.”
The transport authority has cash reserves to cover losses until at least the end of the year.
Written with contributions from Jessie Matthewson - Local Democracy Reporter
March 17, 2020