This article, by Laura O'Callaghan, originally appeared in the Express.
SADIQ KHAN has been shamed in a humiliating stunt by Shaun Bailey, his London Mayoral rival, with ads attacking the Labour politician for "bankrupting Transport for London".
The Conservative candidate in London’s mayoral election resorted to a giant ad mounted on the back of a van being driven around the capital. The stunt comes as the Labour mayor’s spat with the Government over the bailout plan for TfL drags on. The giant ad reads: "Sadiq Khan has bankrupted Transport for London. £9.56 billion blown since 2016."
Mr Bailey’s campaign team said the figure had been calculated from the money Mr Khan had “wasted” since being elected in May 2016.
Mr Bailey said: “Sadiq Khan has been in control of TfL for nearly five years. It’s time he took responsibility.
"Now, after racking up £9.56billion in wasteful spending - he’s blaming coronavirus for the fact that TfL’s bankrupt.
"Sadiq Khan needs to stop playing the blame game. He needs to take responsibility and get a grip on TfL’s finances.”
Boris Johnson has blasted Mr Khan for his handling of public finances during his four-year-term.
The Prime Minister said the City Hall boss had “effectively bankrupted” the public transport system.
Mr Khan hit back, accusing Mr Johnson of attaching “vindictive proposals” to the Government’s second coronavirus rescue package for the network.
He claimed the conditions attached to the deal would “hit Londoners with a triple whammy of higher costs”.
The Mayor said ministers want TfL to expand the £15 Congestion Charge Zone to the North and South Circular roads in 12 months' time.
This would mean the zone would cover an extra four million people living in London.
The Government was also said to want to increase TfL fares by well above the inflation rate, and double down on demands to remove free travel for under-18s.
A spokesperson for Mr Khan said Mr Bailey's claim that the mayor had wasted billions of pounds was a "flat out lie".
They added: "Sadiq has been clearing up the Tories' financial mess on TfL and before the pandemic hit he'd reduced Tfl's deficit by over £1 billion.
"The only reason TfL needs money now is because fares went down 70 percent during COVID-19.
"The Tory candidate and his government now want to punish Londoners - by extending the congestion charge to the North & South Circular, hiking fares and raising taxes. Only Sadiq is standing up for London."
The row over the bailout plan comes after the Government pumped £1.6 billion into the transport network in May.
The money was aimed at keeping tubes and busses up and running during the coronavirus pandemic.
TfL recorded a massive drop in passenger numbers due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The number of travellers on its network fell by 90 percent during the nationwide lockdown.
Meanwhile Mr Khan has said tourist spending in central London is set to fall by £10.9 billion this year due to the pandemic.
The figure represents a far higher total than the estimated £1.9 billion which could be lost as a result of the decline in commuters living both within and outside the city, a study released by the mayor said.
Mr Khan said the data showed new bail-outs announced by Mr Johnson and the Chancellor are only "a sticking plaster solution”.
He warned the collapse of London tourism could leave many hospitality, retail and leisure businesses without hope of returning to normal for "many months to come".
City Hall analysis of forecasts by Visit Britain showed goods and services revenue from foreign tourists in the city would drop £7.4 billion through the year, while domestic tourists would spend £3.5 billion less.
Mr Khan said: "This analysis shows the eye-watering drop in the money spent by visitors in the economic and cultural heart of the capital - which is far greater than even the impact of fewer commuters travelling into the centre of the city each day.”