Following yesterday's item about the funding gap now faced by TfL, the Department for Transport (DfT) has given short thrift to suggestions that it should make up the shortfall:
"We have already agreed a generous long-term settlement with TfL, providing more than £40bn for London transport over the next 10 years.
"This took into account the possibility that the costs for delivering tube improvements could be higher than originally envisaged, as well as providing funding for Crossrail. It is now for TfL to manage this to deliver the high quality transport its users expect."
At the time of the original settlement negotiation (by Ken Livingstone's administration), concerns were expressed over a possible funding gap. Those concerns have now become a reality.
Where this leaves TfL, its passengers and London rate-payers still remains unclear. The DfT's statement can only be the opening salvo of the public negotiation which will now take place. Already, in The Guardian, TfL has shot back by painting a picture of a London which doesn't meet the funding gap:
Either the bill must be met, or less work will be done. The result, according to tube boss Tim O'Toole, would be that "the tube will become less reliable and capacity will shrink" - which means stations being shut down to prevent overcrowding and fewer trains to carry record numbers of passengers.
Quite obviously this is not the vision which the Government would want to promote of Britain as the first tourists start arriving for the Olympics in 2012. Someone has to step up.
As we stated yesterday, cost-cutting is the order of the day. In City Hall the Mayor is throwing everything which is not buckled down overboard, whilst long gestating projects are being shrunk and diverted in scope. These measures, whilst admirable in their aims, are short sighted, and will not make a dent in the "up to £3bn" funding hole faced by TfL.
Make no mistake, the plug for this hole will be found - the real question is how much of a hit Londoners will take in supplying their part of it. That is the negotiation which is playing out now.
UPDATE: Londonist has a great editorial on the same subject here.