TfL warn of cash shortage as workers start to be furloughed

Transport for London have confirmed that they are to place 7,000 staff – whose work has been reduced or paused as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic – on furlough from Monday 27th April. This news comes after Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned that without government support services across the TfL network may have to be reduced further due to financial constraints which could have seen no further cash available to pay staff from the end of this month.

As we previously saw with warning on Manchester Metrolink, revenue has fallen sharply on all TfL backed services during the lockdown with the Tube, for example, seeing 95% fewer passengers travelling as a result of the restrictions. With the bus network also seeing an 85% fall, and passengers no longer having to tap in following changes to boarding arrangements, for an overall network that relies on fare revenue for 47% of its income the changes are starting to be felt financially.

The furloughing of the 7,000 staff is said to give TfL a little more leeway in their finances as they will be able to access funding from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, saving the organisation an estimated £15.8million every four weeks. It will also enable further constructive discussions to be held with the government about providing additional support, as has already been seen for many other transport undertakings in recent weeks.

Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “The transport network is crucial in the fight to tackle coronavirus and it will play a similarly vital role in supporting the country’s economy as it recovers from the pandemic. We have significantly cut our costs over recent years but nevertheless the success of encouraging the vast majority of people to stay at home has seen our main revenue, fares, reduce by 90%. We are now taking steps to use the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to further reduce our costs where work has been paused because of the virus, while at the same time supporting our staff financially. Our work with the Government about the support that we need are ongoing and are constructive. We hope for an urgent agreement so that we can continue to provide the city with the vital transport it needs now and going forward.”

The decision to furlough staff came a couple of days after a BBC Radio London interview where Mr Khan said that TfL had been using their reserves to cover costs but this was only likely to be sustainable until the end of the month, unless extra support became available.

At the same time a TfL spokesperson was also quoted as saying that Mr Khan was talking about “reaching our prudent ‘minimum cash balances’ by the end of the month, which by then will still be £1.2bn. This is sufficient for us to keep operating the city’s core transport and paying our staff while we are in constructive discussions with the government”.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that on London Tramlink floor stickers are being introduced at East Croydon and West Croydon stops to help with social distancing for those who still need to travel on the tram. Trams are currently running every 15 minutes on Tramlink and an enhanced cleaning regime has also been introduced.

* It has also been confirmed that sadly a revenue inspector working on London Tramlink died earlier this month having contracted Coronavirus. The man was in his late 50s. We send our thoughts and sympathies to all that knew him.

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