Khan and Shapps try to put their differences aside as northern line extension opens

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Rarely has a Monday morning trip on the North Line been able to generate so much bonhomie. As the £ 1.1 billion London Underground extension opened for the first time, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and London Mayor Sadiq Khan traveled west together to at Battersea Power Plant – and talked about teamwork for a project that has finally come to fruition. on budget and on time.

Services started at 5:28 a.m., with enthusiasts lining up outside the new Battersea Power Station for a slice of underground history, the first new stations on this side of the millennium. Some were running to the other side: A man with a “First Passenger for Battersea of ​​Mill Hill East” sign stuck to his t-shirt jostled behind closed doors when the VIPs arrived.

It remains to be seen how many residents of Battersea’s new power plant will take a metro in the morning, with multi-million penthouses still on sale and the cheapest of 254 apartments costing north of £ 800,000. But the redevelopment, with its riverside picnic tables, entertainment venues and posh boutiques already in place, and Apple’s headquarters and powerhouse conversion coming next year, will attract surely soon more passengers.

The thorny question remains how London will finance its transport system, with only a fraction of the fare revenue since the coronavirus outbreak. While train and bus operators outside London have lost their Treasury guaranteed spiral fares, the government has been decidedly less willing to help a Labor mayor who has cut fares. The funding crisis has been exacerbated by delays at Crossrail, the new east-west line, which is finally due to open next year as the Elizabeth Line.

Khan certainly hoped Shapps would learn some valuable lessons, with the current funding deal for Transport for London set to expire in December and ongoing discussions on how to secure London’s financial base. “It has to be a long-term deal and we have to change the funding model,” the mayor said.

“On a formula where we have to have 72% of our services paid for by inbound tariffs, this is not sustainable. Before the pandemic, we made 4 million metro trips a day – we’re a long way from it. “

He was keen, he said, to bring Shapps to the opening of the Northern Line Extension “to show the difference that government working with city hall, the public sector, the private sector, can make. A takeover of London benefits the national recovery. Every £ 1 you spend here, 55p is spent elsewhere in the country.

Shapps, however, drew further lessons, tweeting a photo of himself and Khan posing under the ‘Power’ on the station’s nameplate, announcing, “Thanks to government funding, two new subway stations have opened … This may have This is news for TfL, and in particular for the Greater London Authority and the developers, who have taken the remaining 90% of the bill with loans that will be funded by future increases in business taxes .

After claiming the credit, Shapps struggled to say much more money was being spent to ‘level’ the north: around £ 29bn on transport since 2010, he claimed. On a more conciliatory note, he added: “We also need to take care of the capital, we are committed to doing that, and today this is a great example of different groups coming together in partnership and doing something really great.

Nonetheless, the transport secretary warned: “TfL will have to make, and has had to make, some very difficult decisions in order to ensure that the finances accumulate. The government has invested, I think, so far £ 4.1bn and it continues. We are going to have more conversations with them…. We should expect TfL to make adjustments.

But standing outside the glittering Battersea station, cradled by a community choir, that inconvenience could wait. “Look, today is a day that we got together and built something worthwhile for Londoners,” Shapps said. “We should stay on that positive note for today. “

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