The next financial support agreement between the Government and Transport for London needs to be a long-term deal, TfL Commissioner Andy Byford has told Modern Railways.
Speaking at the opening of the Elizabeth Line, Mr Byford said TfL is very grateful for the £5 billion of support the organisation has received through the pandemic, but said it is imperative that TfL receives a long-term deal which can provide certainty and assurance for the organisation to deliver capital programmes. The current deal between TfL and Government runs out on 24 June.
On the possibility of Crossrail 2, the proposed north east to south west route across the capital, Mr Byford recalled the comments of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Elizabeth Line’s official opening ceremony on 17 May, where he suggested the country should be getting on with building Crossrail 2. While TfL had previously paused development of proposals for Crossrail 2, with the route safeguarded, Mr Byford said he had told his team to ‘start dusting off the plans’.
Mr Byford said he was ‘so glad and proud’ to see the Elizabeth Line open. While TfL’s original projections were for passenger numbers on the new railway to reach 250 million a year by 2026, Mr Byford said this figure may need to be revised downward given the changes in travel patterns due to the pandemic, suggesting around 200 million a year may be a more prudent estimate. However, he said the Elizabeth Line still provides a significant capacity increase and will stand the test of time.
In terms of current passenger numbers, TfL Chief Operating Officer Andy Lord told Modern Railways that on the organisation’s rail operations these are at just over 70% of pre-pandemic levels. However, he said there is a difference between weekday and weekend patronage, with weekend figures on the London Underground in the high-80s and 91% of pre-pandemic patronage achieved last Sunday. By contrast, he said Mondays and Fridays were much quieter.
Mr Lord said certainty of funding for TfL is vital, as this would enable it to progress capital investments it would like to deliver. These include new signalling for the Piccadilly Line alongside introduction of the new Siemens 2024 stock trains which are now under construction, and the exercising of options in the contract with Siemens for new trains for the Bakerloo and Central Lines.