What’s subsequent for Transport for London? – Centre for Cities


Since the start of the pandemic, Transport for London (TfL) has actually gotten near to ₤ 5bn in financial support from the Government to guarantee services in an environment of low ridership. The present plan will expire on Friday (24th June).

With the existing funding design and ridership levels, TfL might have to cut services to stabilize its finances. This would be deeply negative for London as a whole. How should the Mayor avoid this? And which lessons can we gain from other worldwide cities’ transport networks?

London’s transport system is more reliant on fares than its international equivalents

The pandemic impacted mass transit systems across the world, and international cities like New York and Paris likewise dealt with massive drops in ridership over the last number of years. Due to the nature of its revenue designs, London’s network has had a hard time more than its counterparts.

TfL’s reliance on fare revenues is fairly high when compared with other international cities. Figure 1 shows that more than 70 percent of its income in 2018/19 originated from fares, compared to simply below 40 percent in New York and Hong Kong, and 27 per cent in Paris. This means that a similar loss in ridership has struck London’s transportation finances harder than the other cities.

Figure 1: London’s dependence on fares is much greater than in a number of global cities

Share of income from fares

Source: TfL (2018/19 ); Île-de-France Mobilités(2018 ); Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (2018); New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority(2019); Singapore’s Land Transport Authority( 2018/19 ). Methodology: Île-de-France Mobilités fare earnings represent 27 per cent after deductions from employers and regional authorities (38 per cent without reductions).

While TfL’s reliance on fare earnings might previously be thought about a strength that minimized its dependence on Government funding, it ended up being a major weakness throughout the pandemic and the subsequent recovery.

TfL’s ridership is still significantly listed below pre-pandemic levels

At the start of the pandemic, ridership fell substantially due to social restrictions. It reached its lowest point in April 2020, at roughly 12.7 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and healing has actually been slow since. By the end of April 2022– nine months after the federal government raised most of its Covid constraints– total ridership was still 22 per cent below pre-pandemic levels (Figure 2).

Figure 2: TfL ridership is still far from pre-pandemic levels

TfL journeys (August 2019– April 2022)

Source: TfL. Periods of 28-31 days. * Other modes consist of Overground (52 percent); DLR (26 per cent); TfL rail (15.3 per cent); Tram (5.8 per cent); Emirates Airline Journeys (0.5 per cent).

The structure of the recovery likewise poses more financial challenges to TfL. Television, which is used to subsidise other modes of transport, such as buses, has actually recuperated the least. At present levels, TfL would have around a billion fewer paid journeys this year, compared with 2019/20.

London’s mass transit requires a brand-new financing design

In the existing context, TfL needs around ₤ 1-₤ 1.5 bn to stabilize its spending plans in 2023— either by raising profits or achieving functional savings. Based upon its powers and experiences from abroad, the Mayor of London and TfL have some options to do this:

Within existing powers:

  • Reduce costs by cutting services;
  • Increase earnings from existing sources (congestion charge; council tax; raise fares);

Requiring new powers:

  • Promote land development (“Hong Kong Model”) and land worth capture;
  • Further fiscal powers to raise local income contributions (“Parisian Model”);
  • New revenue-raising tools focused on cars and truck ownership and driving (“Singapore Model”);
  • A more diversified model that integrates the majority of the functions above (“New York Model”).

When analysing the very best methods of raising additional earnings or cutting costs, the Mayor needs to think about the benefits of the TfL network and who yields them. From the alternatives provided above, cutting services and raising fares should be prevented at all costs. This would deeply weaken London’s urban mobility, air quality, economic engine and capability to take on other international cities. On the other hand raising more earnings from council taxes– a deeply dysfunctional and regressive system– would be politically tough and may need a referendum. Raising or expanding the blockage charge also has its limitations, as it eventually aims to minimize driving, which could either decrease revenues and/or increase ridership dependency via promoting modal shift.

Finding brand-new income streams ought to not simply be seen as a short-term need but as an opportunity to move far from a fare-driven earnings model and closer to what we see in other international competitive cities (Figure 1). That stated, the Mayor of London would need to negotiate additional financial powers with Government (as mentioned by the London Finance Commission).

The advantages of TfL are not only enjoyed by its daily commuters. London’s first-rate metropolitan infrastructure delivers access to tasks without the need for a cars and truck and provides organizations with swimming pools of workers and clients. It likewise enhances air quality and reduces carbon emissions by taking cars and trucks off of the streets. This all enables a level of density that permits productivity and economic growth, which eventually equate into greater fiscal revenue for Government (through VAT, income and business tax, and so on). New funding sources, inspired by other international cities, need to take this into factor to consider.

Paris collects earnings from most of its workers by lauding its network as a public good; while Singapore mainly focuses on car owners, who all at once benefit from public transportation and trigger social costs to the general population (for example, by polluting).

London’s population is only expected to grow over the coming decades, which will create more demand for public transportation. By moving towards a more varied earnings design, future boosts in ridership could be utilized either to fund brand-new projects and even decrease fares over the medium to long-lasting (which would also assist employees going back to the workplace and high streets).

In the coming weeks, Centre for Cities will analyse in greater detail how various worldwide cities money their public transit models and what powers London needs to duplicate such policies.