Aug 1st 2020“IT WAS THE most unusual start to any job I’ve ever had,” says Andy Byford, London’s new Transport Commissioner, who took up his role on
“IT WAS THE most unusual start to any job I’ve ever had,” says Andy Byford, London’s new Transport Commissioner, who took up his role on June 29th. “I walked into an almost empty office, running almost riderless Tubes with a severe financial challenge.” Transport for London (TfL), the capital’s public-transport authority, issued a revised budget for the second half of the current financial year on July 24th. It is asking central government for £4.9bn ($6.4bn) to cover a revenue shortfall over the next two years. That would come on top of an initial funding package of £1.6bn agreed in May.
TfL is unusual among large public-transport operators because it relies so heavily on passenger fares. Ticket sales generate over 70% of its income compared with under 40% in Paris or New York, where Mr Byford previously ran the transport authority. TfL used to receive around £700m a year from the Treasury, but that was phased out in 2018 as a result of a deal agreed with a former mayor, Boris Johnson. Since then it has come to rely on Tube revenues to subsidise buses. It was bound to suffer badly from a collapse in travel (see chart).
Mr Byford says that getting the finances on a sounder footing is one of his two priorities—the other one is opening the much-delayed Crossrail line. He argues that “going with the begging bowl out to the Treasury every six months” is…