July 24, 2020 / 10:06 AM / 14 days ago

Transport for London needs more govt help as lower usage continues

FILE PHOTO: A bus drives on an almost empty street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the financial district of London, Britain July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Transport for London (TfL) said it needed up to 300 million pounds ($382 million) more than it initially estimated to keep running services for the rest of the year after passenger numbers plunged, and called on the government to provide it with the extra support.

Before the pandemic struck, London’s transport operator TfL relied mostly on income from fares to run tubes, buses and trains, and invest in new projects, and unlike most other capital cities, did not receive any grant from central government.

But the government stepped in to help it after the coronavirus outbreak pushed its income down by 90% due to official advice for people to avoid public transport at the height of the pandemic between March and July.

That advice has now been changed, but TfL said passenger numbers remained low and it expected public transport usage to remain down for the foreseeable future.

TfL said it would need funding of 2 billion pounds for the second half of the year, up to 300 million pounds more than it outlined in an earlier emergency budget.

“There remains a large degree of uncertainty around future social distancing assumptions and the threat of a further pandemic-related suppression of demand,” it said in a statement on Friday.

TfL also said it needed longer-term certainty from government on future funding to allow it to continue to invest in projects to help reduce car usage.

“TfL’s revised budget, should sufficient funding be provided by the government in the months ahead, will keep services running safely and support London’s recovery from the pandemic,” said London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

($1 = 0.7849 pounds)

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Costas Pitas

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