Labour London Assembly Members are warning that another Hammersmith Bridge fiasco is on the horizon after the Government locks the capital out of vital roads funding.
Investment in London’s roads plummeted by 60% after the Government took away its revenue grant from Transport for London (TfL) in 2018, according to new figures obtained by Labour’s London Assembly Transport Spokesperson, Elly Baker AM.
A series of responses from the Mayor of London to written questions submitted by Ms Baker also reveal that the Department for Transport (DfT) has locked the capital out of most of its road infrastructure and maintenance funding schemes. The London Assembly Member is now warning of “more crippling road closures” and “gridlock” if the Government continues to short-change TfL “at every turn”.
The refusal from Ministers to so far provide TfL with a long-term emergency funding deal has led to a ‘managed decline’ scenario where vital repairs and upgrades to roads have been suspended. Papers published by TfL warn that “asset closures and restrictions would be likely on our road network (with a high risk of unplanned bridge and tunnel closures)”.
TfL has listed structures such as the A40 Westway, Rotherhithe Tunnel, Gallows Corner Flyover, Brent Cross Flyover, Vauxhall Bridge and the Croydon Flyover as at risk of imminent closure.
This comes on the back of the Government’s previous removal of the revenue grant which led to investment in London’s highway network infrastructure to drop from £156 million in 2017/2018 to just £61 million in 2018/2019. Proactive renewals of TfL’s highway assets were also paused for two years as a result of this funding cut.
Investment in London’s roads rose to £119 million during 2021/2022, but this was dampened by the wider impact of the pandemic on TfL’s finances.
Ms Baker is now urging the Government to provide TfL with a minimum three-year capital funding settlement by next Thursday’s deadline (24 March) to avoid another major and disruptive closure, akin to what was recently seen with the Hammersmith Bridge.
According to the Mayor of London, neither TfL, the Greater London Authority (GLA) nor the London boroughs have been eligible to bid for money from the vast majority of existing and previous Government road schemes, such as the Pothole Action Fund.
With over 20,000 kilometres of road within the GLA boundary, the Mayor has calculated that the capital would be proportionately entitled to at least £50 million a year from the £1.1 billion Highways Maintenance Block and Potholes fund, if it was not excluded from applying to the scheme.
In the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, the Government pledged £24 billion in strategic road investment over a five-year period. However, the capital is set to only indirectly benefit from one scheme supported by the funding pot, based outside of the M25, which will help to build the Lower Thames Crossing - set to link Kent and Essex.
London currently generates around £500 million a year in Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), but this is almost exclusively spent on maintaining roads outside of the capital.
Labour’s London Assembly Transport Spokesperson, Elly Baker AM, said: “London has been short-changed at every turn by the Government when it comes to investment in our road infrastructure. Even after battling heavy cuts imposed by Ministers, the capital is still being excluded from benefiting from crucial funding schemes.
“No one wants to see another Hammersmith Bridge-style fiasco, but without proper Government investment we are facing a very real and imminent threat of more crippling road closures and gridlock.
“What’s more is that the Transport Secretary has shown bad faith in negotiations with TfL and the Mayor in refusing to allow London to keep hold of the £500m it generates in Vehicle Excise Duty each year.
“To keep London moving, we need a much fairer playing field. This is why the Government must come up with a minimum three-year capital funding settlement for TfL by next Thursday’s deadline.”