RMT responds to Government review of TfL finances with warning of 'mother of all battles'

National Policy Circular No. NP/179/JW
21 July 2020
To all London Underground branches, TfL members and all Branches and Regional councils

Dear colleague


The government has now published the terms of reference for its review of Transport for London’s finances, which was one of the conditions imposed on the Mayor of London as part of the package of funding and loans agreed in May this year. 

The terms of reference appear designed to provoke industrial disputes and they risk a backlash from the wider public. They mention not only exploring the potential of ‘driverless trains’ to reduce operational costs but seeking other efficiencies and, examining ‘evidence and options for more fundamental changes that could put TfL in a more full sustainable financial position’. These options, include ‘a review of the current operating model and whether there are any opportunities that alternative operating models could bring over the longer term, including consideration of structures and governance’.

The moment these terms of reference were published your union published a statement warning that this appeared to open the door to privatisation of TfL operations, infrastructure and assets, including, potentially the Underground. As the Guardian newspaper reported this morning, the union’s senior assistant general secretary, Mick Lynch, said there would be “the mother of all battles – including the option of all-out strike action” and said “It is utterly disgraceful that the government’s response to the heroic efforts of thousands of key tube workers who are risking their lives to keep London moving during the Covid-19 epidemic is to now threaten tube privatisation and driverless trains.” (

Today, the union has written to Secretary of State Grant Shapps calling on the government to urgently clarify its position and to ‘make a clear statement that the review will not include any alternative operating model that entails any privatisation and or PFI /PPP or other additional private sector vehicles for London Underground assets, infrastructure or operations which are currently publicly owned or operated.’ You can read the letter in full here: https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-ramps-up-campaign-to-halt-privatisation-of-tube/

Privatisation has been a disaster for the public, taxpayers and workers alike. It has led to the degradation of public services, colossal waste of money as it is siphoned off into shareholder dividends and relentless attacks on the pay and employment conditions of workers. Where it exists in TfL, it is a disaster and where it has been tried on London Underground, it has been a disaster. Your union will continue to fight any proposals to privatise London Underground and any attempt to pass the costs of this crisis onto heroic keyworkers who have kept London’s public transport networks going throughout the pandemic. Now is the time to be reversing the miserable legacy of privatisation not imposing it on other workers and other services. That is what we will fight for.


I will keep you updated with all further developments. 

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash 

General Secretary