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Thursday, May 30, 2024

The promise of more toilets on London’s Tube and bus network is proving “an absolute vote-winner” in the race for City Hall, the Green Party has said

The promise of more toilets on London’s Tube and bus network is proving “an absolute vote-winner” in the race for City Hall, the Green Party has said.

Green mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett asking Londoners about improvements to public toilet provision. Image: Green Party

The party has campaigned over the lack of public loos in the capital over several years, and Green mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett promises to hire a ‘Loo Czar’ and create a Toilet Commission for London if she is elected on 2 May.

The Czar would lead the Commission and ensure their recommendations for boosting the number of public toilets are implemented.

Ms Garbett’s campaign team said the Loo Czar’s role would have a “much smaller” scope than Sadiq Khan’s Night Czar or deputy mayors, suggesting that the job would not command a six-figure salary like they have.

Caroline Russell, Green group leader on the London Assembly, said the party’s promise to install more toilets across the Transport for London (TfL) network is proving popular.

“I think it’s absolutely a vote-winner,” she said. “Everybody cares about this, everybody knows what it’s like to be worried about where you’re going to be able to have a wee.

“For people having prostate cancer treatment, or people who use a colostomy bag, or have Crohn’s Disease, or just pregnant or travelling with small children – those are times in your life when you really need to find a toilet urgently.

“It’s not right that people are curtailing their travel around our city because they’re worrying about finding a loo.”

In August 2023, Ms Russell published a ‘London Loo League Table’ report which exposed the number of ‘loo deserts’ across the Tube network. It found that less than a quarter of stations in zones 1-3 have toilets and that their availability can vary wildly between different Tube lines.

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan last year commissioned a feasibility study to explore how best to improve toilet provision on the transport network, expected to be published in the summer this year.

Mr Khan’s latest budget “commits £3million per annum [recurring] to provide additional public toilets on TfL estates, as well as modernise existing facilities where required, funded from business rates income”.

He said last month: “This is the first time money’s been ring-fenced in TfL’s budget for public toilets.

“This means that as soon as the feasibility study is complete, TfL can look to start work on priority locations – they won’t have to wait until the next budget round to secure funding.”

He added: “In the meantime, improvement works have been completed at over 35 London Underground stations and work continues on several major station enhancements, including Colindale and Leyton – which include improvements to toilet facilities.”

But Ms Russell argued that, while welcome, the mayor’s planned investment will fall short of what is needed and she said Mr Khan had “dithered and delayed” in addressing the issue.

“You can’t have a wee in a feasibility study. He really needs to just get on with investing in this really serious public health issue,” she said.

Explaining the Greens’ proposals, she said: “We’ll keep the £3million a year obviously for the team that works at TfL, on toilets. We will invest at least £20million a year [to boost toilet provision].

“We will obviously use the mayor’s feasibility study that’s being published quite soon – which was prompted by my campaigning – and we will use that to determine where the toilets go. But we’ll do things like concentrate on Night Tube stations, [and] interchanges, where the most people are going to be able to get the benefit of those new toilets.

“And also think about the Overground, where it may be quite easy to put toilets in, and that may well be able to fill in some of the gaps on the map.”

Speaking at a London Assembly meeting in February, Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said that providing more public toilets will “certainly” be “on the agenda” if she is elected in May.

Lib Dem candidate Rob Blackie said: “This is a big accessibility issue for the London transport network. It’s hard for many people to use public transport if we don’t have enough toilets. We would aim to increase the budget for toilets year on year – and we have supported calls for this at City Hall.”

The London mayoral election is on Thursday, 2 May, along with elections for the London Assembly.

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