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Londoners saved from plans to extend Congestion Charge zone – for now

Written by: Emma Lunn
The mayor of London was under pressure to extend the £15-a-day charging zone as far as the North and South circular roads.

But Sadiq Khan has reached an eleventh-hour agreement with the government on a £1.8bn funding deal to keep tube, bus and other TfL services in the capital running until March 2021.

The agreement came after Khan rejected government plans for a huge extension of the Congestion Charge zone, scrapping free travel for older and younger Londoners, and increasing TfL fares by more than previously agreed.

Last month Boris Johnson claimed TfL was “effectively bankrupted” before the coronavirus pandemic began, and blamed Khan for the transport system’s financial situation. But TfL said that Khan inherited a £1.5bn deficit from when Johnson was mayor.

Khan has been seeking a £4.9bn settlement for the next 18 months to keep the capital’s tube and bus services going after revenues collapsed because of Covid-19.

Khan said the agreed £1.8bn deal was “not ideal” but added: “We fought hard against this government which is so determined to punish our city for doing the right thing to tackle Covid-19. The only reason TfL needs government support is because its fares income has almost dried up since March.”

Khan had rejected the extension of the £15 daily Congestion Charge to the North and South circular roads as ministers had wanted – in a proposal which would have affected four million more Londoners. The government has now backed down from this condition.

The government also wanted to scrap free travel for under-18s and over-60s. These proposals have also been successfully defeated.

TfL fares will rise by RPI+1% in January as previously agreed, after Khan rejected an additional price hike.

City Hall said that despite providing the private rail operating companies with 18 months of funding with no conditions attached, the government had refused to give TfL more than a six-month deal and even this had conditions.

This means another financial agreement will have to be negotiated just before next year’s mayoral election.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: “These negotiations with government have been an appalling and totally unnecessary distraction at a time when every ounce of attention should have been focused on trying to slow the spread of Covid-19 and protecting jobs.

“The pandemic has had the same impact on the finances of the privatised rail companies as it has had on TfL and the government immediately bailed them out for 18 months with no strings attached. There is simply no reason why the same easy solution could not have been applied to London, which would have allowed us all to focus on the issues that matter most to Londoners, which are tackling the virus and protecting jobs.

“I am pleased that we have succeeded in killing off the very worst government proposals. These proposals from the government would have hammered Londoners by massively expanding the congestion charge zone, scrapping free travel for older and younger Londoners and increasing TfL fares by more than RPI+1. I am determined that none of this will now happen.”

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