The capital’s transport operator has budgeted £800,000 for the provision of Covid advertising for the remainder of the financial year, until March 2023. All Covid restrictions ended on February 24, the same day that Mayor Sadiq Khan has dropped the requirement for face masks in London. transportation, in favor of a strong recommendation to wear one instead. The now wasteful spending has sparked outrage, with activists expressing anger at the wasting of “huge amounts” of funds on “unnecessary pandemic posters”.
The admission comes as the travel network attempts to bridge an estimated £1.1billion funding gap for this year, according to recent documents.
TfL received taxpayer-funded grants and loans during the coronavirus pandemic, to keep the operator open as passenger footfall fell by 95% during the initial lockdown.
However, funding was only secured with concessions, including the attendance of a member of the Department for Transport at TfL board meetings, and a commitment to cut the budget.
TfL said it had now moved to a “managed decline” scenario, in which no new funded capital works would take place, leaving many expected improvement works on hold.
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Between January 27 – when the government lifted ‘plan B’ restrictions as concerns over the Omicron variant eased – and March 31 this year, the transport operator spent £103,236 on ‘illustrations , adaptations, printing and display costs for marketing posters” on face coverings and Covid measures.
Additionally, according to a Freedom of Information request, TfL has budgeted £800,000 for ‘all costs associated’ with Covid signaling from April this year to March 2023.
The London travel network said it had not spent money on advertising space because it had used TfL-owned or non-reserved commercial display sites which it can access for free.
TfL also said it had not spent any funds on stickers or signs, as Tube stations had been provided with whiteboard posters which “are free as they are produced in-house and printed locally at stations”.
When asked to comment, a TfL spokesperson said: “Since May 2021 we have been working hard to encourage people to get back on public transport to support London’s recovery. A key part of this has been reassuring customers of the cleanliness, safety and reliability of our services.
“These expenses related to previous customer information campaigns on the obligation to wear a face covering on the transport network, as well as documents on the cleanliness and safety of the public transport network.
“The budget also allows for spending in the event of a change in national policy in the next fiscal year that would require additional communication with customers. If lower expenditures are ultimately required, they will be reinvested where needed. »
The Department for Transport declined to comment, but Express.co.uk understands that although the legal requirement to wear face masks on public transport has disappeared, the government would prefer passengers to continue to follow individual operators’ rules. transportation.
Before the pandemic, TfL had an operating deficit of just £300m in 2019/20 and was on track to have a surplus by 2022, “based on continued growth in passenger revenue”, it said. he declared.
As part of the agreement with the Department for Transport for emergency funding, the Mayor and TfL “must raise between an additional £500-1bn a year from 2023/24”.
On top of that, TfL must decarbonise by 2030 to be in line with the mayor’s and government’s policy on climate change, he said.
According to a February budget update by TfL’s board, the transport network faced a revised deficit of £1.1billion for the year.
He will receive £200million in government grants from Friday April 29 for the next three months, with funding for the rest of the year to be determined.
TfL’s board said a ‘declining’ network, as it was now, meant ‘aging assets which will fail more regularly’, ‘significantly worse performance on the road network’ and the risk of closure of major bridges or tunnels around London.
The board also warned of a risk of ‘major asset reliability issues’ on the Tube which could lead to ‘multi-day closures’, adding: ‘Without certainty of long-term funding, we risk significant disruption due to restrictions and asset closures, which stifle economic recovery and increase lifetime costs.
He noted that Plan B themselves measured had impacted the recovery of service post-pandemic, with demand falling 20% below expected levels for the end of 2021, at 62%. This was followed by a further drop to 44% in Christmas week.