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City Matters 123

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CITYMATTERS.LONDON

CITYMATTERS.LONDON November 2020 | Page 3 NEWS subscribe to our newsletter at citymatters.london PLAN OF ACTION: plans to bailout Transport for London have been approved. Driverless Tube trains would cost TfL £7billion THERE is “no financial case” for introducing driverless Tube trains, according to a leaked Transport for London (TfL) briefing, writes Jessie Mathewson, Local Democracy Reporter. Scrapping Tube drivers – who are paid at least £55,000 a year – has been touted as a possible solution to TfL’s financial crisis by Boris Johnson. But the leaked TfL report, seen by the Local Democracy Service, claims introducing driverless trains would cost £7billion and offer “poor value for money”. London’s transport network has been starved of cash during the coronavirus pandemic, with a sharp decline in passenger numbers meaning fare income fell 95% at the peak of the virus. The Government handed TfL a £1.6 billion bailout in May to last until mid October – but London leaders have complained of punitive conditions on the deal. The Congestion Charge has risen from £11.50 to £15 and its hours have been extended, while free travel for pensioners has been cut and children’s free travel is to be temporarily suspended. The Government has agreed to a fresh £1.8bn bailout as the country heads into a second national lockdown. Driverless Tube trains have been presented as one way to slash long-term costs – the Prime Minister backed them when he was Mayor of London. But the leaked TfL report – written in August as part of a Government-ordered review of TfL finances conducted by accountancy firm KPMG – pours cold water on the plans. Moving to driverless trains would involve big up front costs, and savings could be undermined by extra maintenance and safety needs, it claims. Like on the Docklands Light Railway, driverless trains on the Underground would still have a staff member on board, the report suggests. This means there would still be a similar number of jobs to fund, though TfL could make savings by paying lower wages for these new roles. Finn Brennan, London Underground organiser for train drivers’ union ASLEF, said the Prime Minister has an “ideological obsession” with driverless trains. “If the Government tries to force TfL to waste huge sums on this pointless exercise, it would suck resources away from projects that could have real positive benefits for passenger safety and bankrupt the entire Tube network,” he said. A TfL spokesperson said drivers “perform a fundamental safety critical role” and have been “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic. “The possibilities, costs and benefits of driverless trains are things that TfL has looked at in the past and will continue to keep under review but it is not something we are actively pursuing,” they said. RAVAGED: TfL is under financial pressure. Covid battle has gone full circle SEVEN months into the Covid-19 pandemic, we are sadly almost back to where we were in March, writes Catherine McGuinness, City of London Policy Chair. England is facing a long and difficult winter, and these new national Covid-19 measures will be a blow to households and businesses across the Square Mile. I urge all individuals and businesses across the capital to act responsibly by following the new restrictions in order to slow the spread of the virus, save lives and protect the NHS. Coronavirus continues to be a challenge for all of us, but one thing that we can all do to help beat the virus is to follow three simple rules: hands, face and space. Regular handwashing, wearing a face covering and keeping your distance from people not in your household or support bubble all remain crucially important. Of course, another thing we can all do is get tested if we have Covid-19 symptoms, in particular a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. Booking a test is quick and easy online or by calling 119, and five testing sites are based in the City of London and Hackney, including one at Guildhall Yard. After your test, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive, you may be contacted by NHS Test and Trace or a City Corporation contact tracer and asked to self-isolate, as may members of your household or support bubble. We understand that this may be a challenge for some of you. If you cannot arrange for food, medication and other essential items to be delivered while you and your household self-isolate, please let the City Corporation know so that we can assist you to stay at home. You can do this by emailing [email protected], or by calling 020 7606 3030. Please also consider getting a free flu vaccination if you are eligible for one. It won’t protect you against Covid-19, but will keep you safe against another dangerous virus this Winter, and help take pressure off the NHS. Let me finish by saying that while public health must come first, livelihoods matter too. The virus is not going to go away quickly, and we urgently need to find a way to live with it. Households and businesses will need additional support through these tough times so it is welcome that the furlough scheme has been extended. In order to pay for this support, we will also need sectors such as hospitality, retail and culture to reopen safely as soon as possible. It is also vital that we get office workers back to Covid-secure workplaces as soon as we safely can. Employers have dedicated considerable resources to deliver Covid-secure workplaces and to restore confidence among their staff, and tell us they want to see office life for the many corporate benefits that brings. That’s why we’ve asked the government to keep the new lockdown measures under close review based on the evidence and set out a pathway for how parts of the country, including London, can return to a semblance of normality. We need a clear plan for our economic recovery that backs the industries that will drive future growth.

© 2018 City Publishing Limited