Sadiq Khan and his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey have united against proposals to expand London’s congestion charge to the North and South Circular roads.
This huge increase to the charging area is believed to be a Government condition in ongoing negotiations for a new Transport for London (TfL) bailout.
Ministers could give the network just half the £2 billion cash it is asking for, and impose more cuts to free travel for pensioners and children, Sky News reported last night.
The transport authority is in crunch talks with the Department for Transport to agree a new deal, with its current £1.6 billion cash pot set to expire tomorrow (Saturday October 17).
The Mayor was today unwilling to comment on the live negotiations, but told LBC radio he was “annoyed” that serious funding discussions with Government did not start until this week.
But a source close to Mr Khan said City Hall would not accept damaging conditions.
“Negotiations are ongoing to do a deal to keep TfL services running,” they said.
“Conditions such as extending a £15 congestion charge to the North and South Circular and taking free travel away from children and older people would be totally unacceptable to the Mayor and he would not ask Londoners to accept them in these exceptionally difficult times.”
Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey also condemned the congestion charge proposals.
“Under no circumstances would I back an extension of the congestion charge zone, regardless of who proposes it,” he said.
“Any extension would hit hard working Londoners in the pocket and death knell for small businesses.”
The congestion charge is now £15 a day: it was increased from £11.50 under the conditions of the first TfL bailout.
The Mayor plans to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone – which currently covers the same are as the congestion charge – to the North and South Circular roads next year.
But it is unclear how the congestion charge could be extended at present, because there are no traffic cameras to police the area.
TfL has relied on Government cash during the coronavirus crisis, after its income from passenger fares fell 90 per cent at the peak of the virus.
If a new deal cannot be agreed with Government, the network will be forced to issue a Section 114 order – the equivalent of bankruptcy for a public body.
The transport authority would then only be allowed to operate services it is required to by law – taxi licensing, free school buses for some children, and the Woolwich Ferry.
Most bus services, the Tube, Overground and Tram network would stop running.
TfL’s finance committee will hold an emergency meeting this afternoon at 2pm.