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Coronavirus: Transport for London receives £1.6 billion bailout as revenue drops 90%

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Coronavirus: Transport for London receives £1.6 billion bailout as revenue drops 90%
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London's transport system has received a £1.6 billion (€1.8 billion) bailout from the UK government to manage the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, the Department for Transport said.

The bailout comes as Transport for London, which runs the metropolitan (underground) and bus lines in the city, reported that fares and other revenue fell by 90% due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The bailout includes a grant of £1.095 billion (€1.2 billion) and a loan of £505 million (€570 million).

"People should avoid using public transport and work from home wherever possible, but as measures are slowly lifted it is vital that Londoners who need to use TfL services feel safe and secure," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan said this was not the deal he wanted and criticised the loan, stating that public transport was taking on "additional debt" as part of the bailout.

Khan also warned that the government would have fares rise next January. Free travel at peak times for Freedom Pass, 60 plus card holders and under 18s is also suspended.

"The Government is, in effect, making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19," Khan said in a statement.

The transport department has said this is to reduce the risk of crowding and to stop vulnerable groups from taking transport during peak hours.

The UK government has also invested £2 billion (€2.25 billion) in cycling and walking lanes and road closure to encourage people to choose more green ways of travelling.

Transport for London had furloughed 7,000 staff (around 25% of its workforce) as lockdown restrictions resulted in a massive reduction in travellers.

London's transportation commissioner Mike Brown said the network would need to operate differently "during this extraordinary period".

He said they are now operating up to 70 per cent of peak London underground or Tube services and over 80 per cent of bus services with many staff "ill, shielding, or in self-isolation."

Siobhan Benita, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London in the 2021 election, criticised the rescue deal.

"The bailout was absolutely necessary, but it’s a really bad deal for Londoners," Benita said in a live interview on Euronews' breakfast programme Good Morning Europe.

She suggested limiting capacity on London's tubes and buses to avoid overcrowding and introducing new express bus routes to relieve some of the pressure on the underground.

People should also be allowed to use e-scooters on bike paths and should be encouraged to travel at different times of the day through flexible fares, she said.

"There’s so much more that should be done in London now, to help both staff working on the transport network and passengers be able to move around safely," she said.

You can watch an excerpt from the interview with Siobhan Benita in the video player above.