London and Yorkshire need each other but are both being let down - Sadiq Khan

The Mayor of London, writing for The Yorkshire Post, explains why the North is important for the capital's prospects.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

ON December 11, funding from the Government to Transport for London (TfL) runs out. If there is no change of direction in the next two weeks, TfL will be left with no option but to cut services. The current plan is to reduce buses by 18 per cent and trains by nine per cent.

More crowded transport would soon force people back into their cars, leading to more congestion on the roads and pollution in the air. With no investment, unplanned bridge and tunnel closures would soon start appearing.

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People in Yorkshire might wonder what this has to do with them, apart from making the capital harder to negotiate on their next visit. The fact is that TfL wouldn’t be able to be successful without the skills and expertise up and down the country. We need you.

For instance, electric buses for London’s 9,000-strong fleet are manufactured for TfL in North Yorkshire and state-of-the-art new tube trains are due to be manufactured in East Yorkshire.

The supply chain to TfL currently supports 43,000 jobs around the country. For every £1 invested on the London Underground, 55p is paid to workforces located outside London, while TfL contracts contribute about £7bn to the British economy.

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It is a vision that makes sense wherever you live in the country. It is all at risk unless the Government changes its position, and, indeed, its approach to planning and delivering infrastructure. The funding crisis in London’s transport is solely due to the pandemic. Revenue from fares plummeted as the city came to a virtual standstill and the work-from-home order was in place.

Commuters on the London Underground. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.

TfL has since had to contend with a series of short-term funding deals, even though TfL, City Hall, businesses and campaign groups have explained to the Government why a short-term approach does not work for public transport. We have sought to work constructively with ministers, trying to negotiate a long-term settlement for TfL.

Annual running costs had already been cut by £1bn over the past five years, and a couple of major planned projects shelved as they were too expensive for a time when money is tight. We had hoped for additional funding as part of a multi-year funding deal in the Treasury’s recent spending review, but nothing materialised. Not a penny.

I know that Yorkshire feels the same kind of disappointment after the recent Government announcement on HS2, and a sense of betrayal.

I have made clear my support for HS2 and that it would be wrong to scrap the eastern leg. I can only hope that at some point that the Government comes to its senses and sees that delivering the whole of the project, as well as the new Leeds to Liverpool route of Northern Powerhouse Rail, including the new station in Bradford, is vital.

The cancellation of such crucial plans was a painful blow not just for Yorkshire but the whole of the North of England and beyond, just as cuts to London’s transport will have repercussions up and down the country. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that there’s a straight choice between investing in London or the rest of the UK. We shouldn’t ask who the biggest loser is when the Government breaks its promises or adopts a blinkered, short-term approach. We are all losing out.

People in London and Yorkshire want the same things: reliable jobs in sustainable industries, affordable housing and clean air to breathe. Parts of London have some of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. People there feel neglected and want to be levelled up just as much as those in other regions.

Our local economies, cities and regions are bound together more than ever by supply chains and a complex web of social and commercial ties.

The suggestion that we are competitors, rather than partners, is in no-one’s interests. It only deflects from what we should be focusing on – ensuring sufficient investment in every region.

The Government claims it wants to level up, tackle the climate emergency and stimulate growth to aid the recovery from the pandemic. Denying funding to TfL and axing significant chunks of the flagship national rail programme makes all our lives harder, at a time when things are already hard enough.