THE TORIES unveiled this week proposals for funding Transport for London (TfL) that will force the working and middle class to bear the huge costs of maintaining a transport system in the capital.
Tory ministers have told London’s mayor Sadiq Khan that the government will take direct control of TfL unless he accepts a string of measures.
These include extending the £15 a day Congestion Charge to the north and south circular roads surrounding the capital – a massive increase in the area of London where drivers are forced to pay the daily £15 charge. Approximately four million more people living in London would become liable for this charge.
This amount was increased from £11.50 back in May on the insistence of the government as a condition for the first financial payment made at the start of lockdown as passenger numbers and revenue collapsed by 90% over all public transport in London.
The government agreed to a £1.6 billion fund to keep TfL from collapse, but with passenger numbers still at the lowest ever, TfL are desperate for another £2 billion until next April to prevent them from going bankrupt.
But the Tories are determined that any extra funding is going to be paid for by London workers. In addition to the massive extension of the congestion charge, the Tories are insisting that TfL increase fares in London well above the rate of inflation along with abolishing free travel for the under-18s and the over-60s.
They are also insisting that council taxes in London will have to be increased for everyone, regardless of whether they use public transport or not, in order to pay back the government funding.
Aslef, the train drivers’ union, condemned the government’s proposals with Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, saying: ‘This is a punitive, and politically motivated, move with the privatised train companies getting a bailout from the government but not TfL, which is in the public sector.’
In fact, the privatised train companies have made a fortune from coronavirus bailouts paid out by the Tories. Private rail companies have been bailed out by at least £3.5 billion thanks to government handouts that have guaranteed their profits and operating costs paid for by the taxpayer.
After intense lobbying by these rail companies this period has now been extended by another 18 months, guaranteeing even bigger profits for their shareholders.
The rail unions are also very aware that their members will be right in the firing line of the Tory drive to make the working class pay.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail workers union RMT, pledged an all-out fight to protect pensions, jobs and conditions as the government lines up savage cuts in the TfL funding deal.
Cash said: ‘While we await official confirmation on the future funding arrangements for transport in the capital, RMT reiterates our position that we will not tolerate any attacks on jobs and conditions from any quarter as part of any deal. Any threat of cuts will be met by an industrial, political and public campaign of co-ordinated resistance.’
This latest attack on the working and middle class is part of the drive by the Tories to make them pay for the massive UK debt which has leapt to a record £2.024 trillion under the impact of the world capitalist crisis, greatly accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
All this debt has to be repaid and the capitalist class are determined that they will not be the ones to pay – instead it will be workers, youth, the elderly and the middle class that will have their lives destroyed to keep this bankrupt system from collapse.
The only way forward today is for the working class and middle class to unite in action through the organisation of a general strike to bring down this Tory government and bring in a workers’ government and socialism.
A workers’ government will restore public ownership to the railways and all public services placing them under the management of the working class as part of building a planned socialist economy.