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Transport for London furloughs 7,000 staff to save £15.8m a month

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Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2-min read
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A London bus is seen in Westminster as from Monday 20th April TfL introduces middle-door only boarding across the London bus network. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
A London bus in Westminster. (Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)

London bus drivers and tube workers are to be furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme, as Transport for London (TfL) looks to cut costs during a funding crunch.

TfL said on Friday it would furlough 7,000 staff. The move will save the transport operator £15.8m ($19.5m) every four weeks and amounts to a quarter of TfL’s staff being placed on furlough.

“We have significantly cut our costs over recent years but nevertheless the success of encouraging the vast majority of people to stay at home has seen our main revenue, fares, reduce by 90%,” said London transport commissioner Mike Brown.

“We are now taking steps to use the government’s Job Retention Scheme to further reduce our costs where work has been paused because of the virus, while at the same time supporting our staff financially.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 18: Bus driver Am Saleem poses for a portrait in Bow on April 18, 2020 in London, England. In a press conference on Thursday, First Secretary of State Dominic Raab announced that the lockdown will remain in place for at least 3 more weeks. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 140,000 lives and infecting more than 2 million people. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
A bus driver taking precaution against catching coronavirus. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

TfL said vital transport services would continue during the COVID-19 lockdown. It comes amid a cash crunch at the local government body.

Earlier this week London Mayor Sadiq Khan said TfL could only afford to keep all services running until the end of the month and warned the organisation was “eating into” its reserves. Khan said he was in talks with the government about an emergency grant to keep transport services running.

“Our work with the government about the support that we need are ongoing and are constructive,” Brown said on Friday. “We hope for an urgent agreement so that we can continue to provide the city with the vital transport it needs now and going forward.”

Read more: 3.2 million furloughed workers 'may not get their jobs back'

Tube passenger numbers have fallen by 95% and bus passenger numbers are down 85% since the UK went into lockdown a month ago. The bus network has also told passengers they do not need to touch payment cards on card readers when boarding due to fears of germ transfer. The move has effectively made bus travel state subsidised overnight.

A cordon surrounds the front of a London bus on April 20, 2020 in London during the novel coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. - London's transport authorities have put in place new measures to protect bus drivers from coronavirus. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
A cordon surrounds the front of a London bus as a precaution against spread of COVID-19. (Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images)

TfL oversees public transport in the capital including the Underground network, buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Overground services. It also licences taxis and runs free Dial-a-Ride services for disabled people.

Under the government scheme, furloughed staff will receive 80% of their pay up to £2,500 per month from the state. TfL said it would pay the remainder of salaries of all furloughed employees and continue to pay pension contributions.