Unite, which represents thousands of transport workers throughout London, has warned that the government’s proposed funding for Transport for London (TfL) is ‘punishing the poorest’ for the Covid-19 pandemic.
TfL and London mayor Sadiq Khan have been forced to seek additional funding from the government for public transport in London, as revenues have collapsed due to the pandemic.
The government has indicated that it is only prepared to provide financial support if the congestion charge of £15 a day is extended to the north and south circular roads in 12 months time, all fares including those for the bus and tube are increased by greater than the retail price index (RPI) + 1 per cent for several years and a new council tax charge for all Londoners is introduced.
Unite regional secretary for London Pete Kavanagh said, “The government is punishing the poorest Londoners for the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Londoners are facing a triple whammy of increased fares, higher council tax and a massive increase in congestion zone charges.
“The poorest Londoners, who are already struggling financially as a result of losing their jobs or coping with reduced earnings, are the ones who will be least able to afford the increases in fares, charges and council tax,” he added.
“Not only are these increases vindictive, they are dangerous. We do not know when the pandemic will end and by massively expanding the congestion charge people will be forced onto public transport at the same time as they are being told to socially distance.
“Even when and if Covid-19 is brought under control it will take time for people to regain the confidence to use public transport, which is often crowded. The increased congestion charge is punishing Londoners who have been trying to stay safe and reduce their risk of exposure,” Kavanagh went on to say.
“The government is guilty of playing politics with public transport in London and using the pandemic to intervene in next year’s mayoral elections and make it more challenging for Sadiq Khan to be re-elected.
“Londoners are also effectively being penalised for the measures that Sadiq Khan took at the beginning of the pandemic, including closing the front doors on buses and reducing capacity, which led to a collapse in fare revenue but meant that the terrible toll of bus driver deaths was not even higher,” he continued.
“As the second wave of the Covid pandemic takes hold, the government should stop playing politics and work with TfL to ensure that further safety measures are introduced to protect all London transport workers and passengers.”
Following the death of a London bus driver in the Covid-19 pandemic’s second wave, Unite has launched a campaign to further improve safety procedures for bus drivers in the capital.
By Barckley Sumner