Sadiq Khan has accused Boris Johnson of lying to MPs after he claimed the capital’s mayor had “effectively bankrupted” Transport for London.
In a move that would be viewed as a nuclear option, ministers are believed to have said the government could take direct control of TfL if Mr Khan does not accept the government’s conditions.
The mayor has said the government wants TfL to expand the £15 congestion charge to the North and South Circular roads, bringing four million more Londoners into the zone.
It has also been reported that TfL will be required to increase fares well above inflation, with ministers also insisting on removing free travel for under-18s.
In addition, Mr Khan has claimed that a new council tax charge could be introduced in London, regardless of whether residents use public transport.
Asked about the reports at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson told MPs: “The current mayor of London had effectively bankrupted TfL before coronavirus had even hit and left a massive black hole in its finances.
“Any need to make up that deficit is entirely down to him, it is entirely his responsibility.
“Any expansion of the congestion charge or any other measure taken to improve the finances of TfL are entirely the responsibility of the bankrupt current Labour mayor of London.”
But Mr Khan hit back, writing on Twitter that the PM “has lied”.
“Before COVID I was fixing his mess at TfL- reducing the deficit by 71% since 2016,” he said.
“COVID-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges.”
The PM has lied to the House of Commons.
Before Covid I was fixing his mess at TfL- reducing the deficit by 71% since 2016.
Covid-19 is the sole cause of TfL’s challenges. The PM wants to increase fares, the C-Charge & taxes – & end free travel for children and older Londoners. https://t.co/EcVNVSSWjp
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) October 21, 2020
Mr Khan, who succeeded Mr Johnson as mayor in 2016, earlier told a TfL board meeting that he intended to “stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners”.
“TfL is being offered only another six months’ financial support, but with ill-advised and draconian conditions that are unfair to London, fall disproportionately on those least able to afford them, would undermine the economic recovery of our city, and contrast starkly with the support provided to the private train operating companies,” he added.
“This global pandemic will be with us for some time. We requested an 18-month support package to see TfL through the immediate crisis and the aftermath, as it is uncertain how quickly fare revenue will recover.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, said it was “extremely worrying” that TfL was being offered a “papering-over-the-cracks funding package” with “punitive conditions” attached.
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Pete Kavanagh, Unite’s regional secretary for London, accused ministers of “punishing the poorest Londoners for the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“Londoners are facing a triple whammy of increased fares, higher council tax and a massive increase in congestion zone charges,” he said.
“The poorest Londoners, who are already struggling financially as a result of losing their jobs or coping with reduced earnings, are the ones who will be least able to afford the increases in fares, charges and council tax.”