Transport for London unveils new cycling route map

An extract from the new map. Image: TfL.

Three things happened this weekend, each marking another step on the road towards London’s transformation into a cyclists’ paradise*. 

Firstly, on Friday mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London announced plans to restrict large chunks of central London to private cars. The main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Old Street and Holborn, and Euston and Waterloo will each be restricted to buses, pedestrians and cyclists (plus emergency services and the disabled). The transport authority is looking at introducing similar restrictions on Waterloo and London Bridges, too. The Guardian has a map of the proposed changes.

This, a press release claims, will “transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world”. That feels to me like over-stating things a little, but it’s a big deal nonetheless. The changes should take about six weeks to implement.

Secondly, a group of NHS staff have launched a campaign group to pressure local authorities to make streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The group – “Key Workers Need Streetspace” – offers template letters, through which hospital bosses can pressure councils inot making streets safer and healthier. 

Such campaign groups have historically often come under fire from the pro-car lobby, not least London’s black cab drivers. Given the current public support for medical staff, it will be interesting to see how said lobby response to this one.

Lastly, TfL has belatedly released a map of its new cycling routes. It is not frankly the greatest map I have ever seen – it’s so busy it’s quite difficult to read, and it’s the electronic equivalent of attacking a streetmap with a highlighter pen. Nonetheless, it gives some sense of the transport authority’s evolving ambition. 

Here’s the central London section. Existing routes are in green, new ones in purple:

 

You can see the whole thing here. But it does not, as some Twitter users point out, include the new routes mentioned above. 

Incidentally, an ICM poll has found that 17% of British commuters are more likely to cycle to work following the Covid-19 pandemic. The poll, it seems worth noting, was commissioned by a Scottish bike manufacturer, Shand Cycles. 

*Terms and conditions apply.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

 
 
 
 

What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.


Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.