London Transport workers braced for huge cuts in spending

Andy Beadle, London bus driver

London faces cuts in public transport along with attacks on bus and tube workers after the government announced an end to the subsidy to Transport for London (TfL). The Socialist Party completely opposes these attacks.

In his autumn spending review, Chancellor George Osborne announced a 37% cut in the budget of the Department for Transport nationally. The Tory finance minister said this means the annual operating grant to TfL, currently nearly £700 million, would be cut to nil by 2020.

This does not affect capital grants which Osborne said would be increased, although much of his ‘new money’ for projects such as Crossrail and the Nine Elms extension of the Northern line has already been previously announced.


It is clear that the Tories want to continue to fleece public transport users and workers to benefit the profits of big construction firms.

The grant cuts make up about 10% of TfL’s annual operating budget, currently £6.6 billion. TfL’s main income comes from fares, followed by ‘commercial sources’ such as advertising.

So how will this 10% cut in revenue before the end of the decade to be financed? TfL says around half can be covered by new commercial activities like turning the recently closed tube ticket offices into shops such as Argos collection points.

That still leaves the other 5% at the mercy of ‘efficiency savings’, more honestly referred to as cuts in jobs and services, if fares are not to be raised even further.

Like all major cities, for generations, London has run at least a partially integrated public transport system.

Even Thatcher and her cronies understood the dangers in the 1980s when she privatised and deregulated Britain’s buses except in the capital. That was left to her sidekick John Major, a decade later.

Even then the government imposed TfL as a regulator to moderate the rampant excess of the privateers.

That clearly comes at a price and these bus firms are the beneficiaries of massive state subsidies. Today there are fewer service buses in the rest of Britain than there are in London! Even since the economic crisis of 2007-08 public transport has continued to expand in London.

What would the consequences of real cuts be in a city whose population continues to grow? This government seems determined to find out.


The Socialist Party would support a campaign of all London transport workers to oppose these cuts.

A Labour-led Greater London Authority should lead a mass campaign across London involving transport workers and users to reverse these cuts.

Bus workers should demand that of Sadiq Khan, the Unite-backed Labour London mayoral candidate.