The government has placed Andrew Gilligan on the board of Transport for London (TfL) as one of two special representatives appointed following the £1.6 billion emergency funding package provided to the capital’s public transport body in May after passenger numbers and fare revenues plummeted during lockdown.
Together with former Department for Transport (DfT) civil servant Clare Moriarty, Gilligan is one of two government appointees announced today by transport secretary Grant Shapps as details were published of a government review of TfL’s future financial position and structure.
A long-time member of Boris Johnson's inner circle dating back to the latter's second term as Mayor of London, it appears likely that the Prime Minister will have been influential in nominating Gilligan to the position.
As well as being present at TfL board meetings, both Moriarty and Gilligan will sit in on its finance and programme investment committees, with the website MayorWatch saying that “Collectively the conditions mark a significant loosening of City Hall’s control over TfL.”
The RMT union, however, has promised the government “the mother of all battles” over the inclusion within the review of “workforce modernisation, and exploring the feasibility of extending driverless operation from the DLR to other lines which are already automatic.”
There is no specific mention of cycling within the terms of reference of the review, but despite Shapps’ pledge to get more people cycling especially for commuting, there are bound to be concerns that TfL’s straitened circumstances could result in the loss of some funds previously set aside for infrastructure.
Moreover, with transport being one of the key areas of policy-making within City Hall’s remit until now – the other is policing – there will be fears over central government seeking to steer its future direction in the capital through the leverage it has gained through the bailout.
It comes at a time when current Mayor of London, the Labour politician Sadiq Khan, has been highly critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Summer Statement last week, which he warned risked ushering in a new age of austerity.
Gilligan, a journalist by profession who was appointed London’s first cycling commissioner in early 2013 when Johnson was the city’s mayor, is widely seen as the driving force behind successfully implementing its two principal segregated cycleways running from east to west and north to south.
Highly critical of Khan’s record on cycling since he took office in 2016 – previous plans for a cycleway along the Westway as well as a segregated route from Swiss Cottage to the West End were both scrapped, the latter after a judicial review – he was appointed transport advisor to Number 10 after Johnson became Prime Minister in June last year.
Khan had enjoyed a seemingly unassailable lead over Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey at the point in March when the elections to City Hall, due to have been held in May, were postponed until next year due to COVID-19.
The terms of reference of the review announced today, as well as the appointments of Gilligan and Moriarty, seem certain however to open up a new front in the battle between the two major parties in the capital.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.