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CN briefing: Transport for London; Sadiq Khan; Northern line

When Sadiq Khan included in his mayoral manifesto a promise to freeze travel fares for five years, a lot of Londoners were taken with the idea.

As a commuter who pays week in and week out for the pleasure of packing myself on a tube every morning, the promise of a freeze was pretty appealing.

But Mr Khan’s critics say it will lead to a funding blackhole of £1.9bn – the equivalent of about three Northern line extension contracts.

So, with nearly £1.9bn potentially to be lost from the TfL budget, could projects be stopped or scaled back? It would appear not.

The freeze was part of a wider five-year business plan released by the mayor today, which included significant investment in the rail network.

The mayor has called for faster upgrades and more of them, including bringing the Bakerloo extension completion date forward by three years.

Sounds like great news, but is this travel utopia of fare freezes and faster enhancements actually possible?

Mr Khan is looking to cut the “flab” and there are clearly areas where TfL can be made more efficient – merging its surface access and rail and underground engineering arms, for example, seems wise.

But are these changes too much and too quick?

Since coming into power in May, 49 management staff have been axed from TfL’s payroll and more are to follow.

If TfL is looking to grow its network, is shrinking the workforce – with its knowledge and expertise – wise? We shall see.

It’s not only the streamlining that might raise a few eyebrows.

Today’s announcement included an interesting line about “getting more affordable deals from suppliers, and renewing and enhancing assets in more cost-effective ways”.

Contractors, which already operate on tight margins, may read this as being squeezed further.

As one CN reader commented: “Nothing like a nebulous statement for a bit of politicking.”

The plan is ambitious and if it works, the positives would far outweigh the negatives.

But with the scale of the changes within the timeframe given and construction firms being asked to deliver more for less, there could be the odd bump in the road.

Also in the news

New KPMG analysis reveals more than £300bn is to be spent on infrastructure and housing in the next three years.

Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas are to be prosecuted for three incidents during the construction of Crossrail.

More than half of councils found to be failing to meet the law on contractual payment requirements, Electrical Contractors’ Association investigation finds.

Got a bit longer?

Infrastructure specialist Murphy has lofty ambitions of tripling turnover by 2025, but how will it do this? CN talks it through with the company CEO and construction stalwart Steve Hollingshead.

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