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London First welcomes London's new Transport Commissioner
29 June 2020
Today, London First welcomes Andy Byford as the new Commissioner of Transport for London. He takes the helm at the most challenging moment in Transport for London’s short history.
In light of the Covid-19 crisis, transport is one the top priorities for London First members, not least because a poorly managed return to public transport is a critical risk for our capital. In May, we surveyed more than 1,000 Londoners and found that 42% didn’t plan on making any changes to their commute once the lockdown came to an end. Only 16% of Londoners said they would not use public transport for the foreseeable future. The Government, City Hall, Transport for London, and businesses need to work in lockstep to ensure demand is managed and retimed over the months ahead.
Although public transport capacity is likely to be severely reduced for the foreseeable future, it is imperative for Londoners not to revert to car-based travel. Where opportunities to expand network capacity quickly do exist – such as passenger services on the River Thames – they should be seized and the Streetspace initiative has been embarked upon with admirable boldness and energy. As the economy begins to recover, it will be important to regularly assess the success of the Streetspace campaign against its objectives and where successful these changes should be made permanent.
Similarly, accelerating London’s experimentation with micro-mobility (most notably dockless bicycles and e‑scooters) will provide new opportunities. However, London must learn from the cities that have liberalised too quickly and recognise that successful introduction, or expansion, of these services cannot be done on a borough by borough basis. The pan-London dockless vehicle bylaw, or a similar measure, is a critical part of this.
We are, of course, very aware of the impact that this is having on the finances of TfL and we continue to advocate for support and stability in the short term, as well as a sustainable long term settlement. We agree with the Mayor’s assessment that a revised longer-term funding model “will involve either permanent funding from Government or giving London more control over taxes so we can pay for it ourselves – or a combination of both.” Devolving responsibilities to London without devolving resources was always going to be an unstable structure. This crisis should be the catalyst for a fundamental rethink. London First has recently set out our support for further devolution in a report titled Squaring the Circle. This is just the latest step in an ongoing programme of work on funding and financing transport in the capital.
Bold measures to respond to the Covid-19 crisis are not without risk but if they sensible and well-coordinated, we have the potential to reimagine travel around the capital in a way that endures well beyond the current crisis. There has rarely been a more critical time for all those who wish to see our city recover and thrive to work together, and we look forward to working closely with Mr Byford and his team over the coming years.
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