“Full of lies”: TSSA slams Tory mayoral candidate TfL bailout ‘facts’ site

Andrew Kersley

The TSSA has criticised the Conservatives after Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey launched a “facts” website about the Transport for London coronavirus bailout that the union has described as “full of lies”.

The trade union for transport workers, which is the largest organisation representing TfL staff, declared that the Conservative campaign website was an “absolute disgrace” and called for it to be taken down immediately.

The website, titled ‘Transport for London Bailout Facts’, is unbranded with the only reference to its origins at the bottom where it says it was published “on behalf of Shaun Bailey” and lists the London address of the Tory campaign headquarters.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This politically-driven website is full of lies, is an absolute disgrace and should be taken down immediately. Londoners know that coronavirus has hit the whole country hard.

“While the Conservatives were happy to bail out the private train companies and keep funding them so they can pay shareholder dividends, their approach to Transport for London has been nakedly political. This is no time for such games and the Tories should be ashamed.”

The website criticises London mayor Sadiq Khan for seeking a TfL bailout and alleges financial waste by the transport authority, including £12bn of debts accrued before Covid and an £828m pension scheme.

It claims that the £1.6bn loss of fares for the transport service caused by the pandemic pales in comparison to the supposed £9.56bn of TfL money that has been allegedly wasted by management since 2016.

A number of problems have been raised with the figures presented by the website. It categorises the entirety of the organisation’s pension scheme as waste in its £9.56bn figure, for example.

It also cites £1.59bn worth of interest payments on the service’s high debt, ignoring that TfL’s financial deficit has been reduced by 71% since Khan took control from the now Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The tube network in London has seen a 60% drop in the number of passengers using the service since the pandemic began, according to recent figures. Fares are the largest source of funding for the transport authority.

Khan and TfL have, as a result, been seeking a bailout from the government to help the service keep going despite the huge shortfall in fares. The negotiations have been heated and a source of controversy over recent weeks.

The mayor has secured a package worth £1.8bn this week. There were a variety of concessions attached, including a rise in fares of 1% above inflation in 2021, shelving a second Crossrail link and investigating the rollout of driverless trains.

The bailout follows the release of a leaked TfL report by train drivers’ union ASLEF, which found that driverless trains on the tube would cost £7bn and would be “poor value for money” for the city.

Khan has accused both Bailey and the Prime Minister of lying after they both claimed that TfL only needed a bailout as Khan had “bankrupted” the service through mismanagement during his time as mayor.

Bailey was due to run against Khan in the London mayoral elections this year, but the vote was postponed until May 2021 as a result of coronavirus. He currently trails the Labour incumbent in the polls by 22%.

The Tories previously faced criticism for falsely presenting their Twitter as a fact-checking service during the 2019 general election when the party renamed its account “factcheckUK”.

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