TfL funding: Sadiq back on buses, and he’s not a happy man

Why a bus garage when you have a brand new town hall? Because Mr. Khan wanted to be photographed in front of shiny new buses. London buses are built in Falkirk, Yorkshire and Ballymena in Northern Ireland. Investing in London is good for the rest of the country, the story goes. It’s “leveling up” in action, he says.

Moments before stepping onto the podium, TfL received a letter from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps extending its current bailout by three weeks.

But Mr Shapps said it would require a ‘reset of the relationship’ with the mayor before the big buck of a long-term capital funding deal – up to £2billion a year to repair roads and bridges, buying new buses and ordering a new signaling system for the Piccadilly line, for example — would be granted.

Mr. Khan was not happy. He said Mr Shapps, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak “treated Londoners with contempt”. He followed it with a salvo on Twitter. It’s been a long time since he vowed to use his second term to “build bridges”.

Where does that leave TfL? I am told the government is less concerned about how Mr Khan resolves the dispute with the RMT over the threat to staff pensions than the threat to dozens of bus routes. Some 22 routes face the axe, but Mr Khan says 100 are at risk.

Mr Khan does not want to ‘cut his cloth’ under current demand – one in four Tube passengers and one in six bus passengers have yet to return on weekdays. He says maintaining full service is the way to win people back.

He blames the government. But it was Tory MPs who campaigned to save routes such as 14 and 24, not Mr Khan. The son of a bus driver is implicated. The story is messy.

Relations between the Mayor and (some) ministers are bad. “He’s like a guy who walks into the bank with a sawed-off shotgun and says, ‘Give me your money or I’ll shoot myself in the foot,'” a source quips.

It’s funny, yes, but the bus that doesn’t come isn’t funny.

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