Mayor highlights need for long-term funding as TfL publishes bus vision

London Mayor Sadiq Khan standing in front of a StreetDeck Electroliner
Pictured (left to right): Louise Cheeseman ,Director of Buses TFL; John McLeister, Director of Sales for Wrightbus; London Mayor Sadiq Khan; Buta Atwal, Wrightbus CEO; Neil Collins, Wrightbus MD; Gary Kernohan, Head of Sales, Wrightbus

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has highlighted the importance of longer-term capital funding to support Transport for London (TfL) and safeguard jobs across the wider UK supply chain.

Mr Khan highlighted the risks that a lack of proper funding would make while on a visit to Wrightbus’ Ballymena factory, where a batch of battery-electric double-deckers due to enter service in London with Abellio in October are being prepared.

The contract to supply the buses supports around 800 jobs in skilled manufacturing and there are plans to expand the workforce this year. The visit serves to demonstrate how TfL’s supply chain covers the whole of the UK, with Switch Mobility in Leeds and Alexander Dennis in Scarborough and Falkirk also key areas of jobs for the zero-emission bus market, and how essential sustained funding is to the UK economy. It is estimated TfL contracts account for some £7bn and “tens of thousands” of jobs outside London.

After much back-and-forth over a long-term funding deal the government has now agreed to provide TfL with an outline proposal for capital support this month.

“This is a prime example of how TfL’s supply chain stretches throughout the UK, supporting jobs, capacity and certainty for the national move towards a zero emission bus market, helping to clean up our filthy air,” says Mr Khan. “The government’s short-term funding deals are trapping TfL on life support and putting innovation, economic growth and jobs like this at risk, as well as slowing our efforts to improve energy security.

“I urge the government to engage with TfL and City Hall in good faith over the next few months so that we can finally agree a fair, longer-term funding deal that will protect London’s transport network – for the sake of the capital and the whole country.”

Long-term vision published

Others have echoed the need for a long-term funding deal for TfL, including Emma Gibson, Chief Executive at London TravelWatch, and Silviya Barrett, Head of Policy and Research at Campaign for Better Transport, as TfL published its long-term action plan for buses on 11 March. The plan focuses on ways to recover from the pandemic, grow passenger numbers and help London become a net-zero city by 2030.

It hopes to do so by targeting a modern bus network which allows for “spontaneous, independent travel”; a safe bus network where no-one is killed on or by a bus by 2030; journeys that are 10% faster than those in 2015 (alongside 25km of new and improved bus lanes by 2025); improved connections; and a zero emission bus fleet.

TfL has highlighted how sustained investment could see those targets met, with the potential for all buses converted to zero-emission by 2030 if funding is realised.

“We are excited to set out our bus strategy for the rest of this decade, which is all about creating a bus service reflective of our customers and their evolving needs, supporting a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, making London a net zero city by 2030 and improving people’s safety and wellbeing,” says TfL Director of Buses Louise Cheeseman.  “Investment in buses is imperative in dealing with the climate crisis and cleaning up the toxic air that is damaging our health.

“Buses are already an efficient, convenient form of public transport and London has the largest green bus fleet in western Europe, but we need to raise the bar. The Bus Action Plan sets out how we will meet the challenges now and into the future, making buses cleaner and greener, more efficient and an option for all our city’s diverse communities. Ultimately, it’s about making the bus the natural choice over the car.

“We can’t do it by ourselves, and in publishing the action plan today we’ll be well placed to start more engagement over the coming months on our shared objective of making London a better place to live.”