Tory London mayoral candidate wants sponsorship deals for Tube station names to raise TfL cash

Companies would be given the chance to bid to rename stations as part of a new advertising campaign inspired by the Dubai Metro

Underground stations could be renamed under plans put forward by the Conservative London mayoral candidate for a £100 million a year sponsorship deal to bolster investment in the capital’s public transport network.

Under Shaun Bailey’s plans, companies would be given the chance to bid to rename stations as part of a new advertising campaign inspired by the Dubai Metro.

The plans could see Knightsbridge Station renamed after Harrods, while Oxford Circus would be sponsored by brands with flagship stores nearby, such as Nike.

Mr Bailey believes the initiative will raise up to half a billion pounds over five years for Transport for London (TfL), which he says has been left in a “mess” and with “record levels of debt” by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

It comes a week after TfL revealed its advertising revenues had plummeted by 90 per cent in the first quarter of the financial year, with bosses warning that the coronavirus pandemic has caused a "catastrophic impact" on the business.

In Dubai, the branding of 21 new stations across the network has raised more than £300 million, with 10-year sponsorship deals now in place with firms including Emirates, First Gulf Bank and Dubai Healthcare City.

The Spanish capital Madrid has also begun adopting sponsorship in recent years, with Samsung striking a three month deal to rename the Puerta del Sol station, and Vodafone sponsoring an entire tube line over three years.

In New York, station sponsorship has been used since 1977, with naming rights sold across the Metro system. 

However, Mr Bailey says the size of the London Underground network – which has more than four times as many stations as Dubai – means that TfL could generate substantially higher revenues.

“We need to fix the service that Londoners love. That’s why I’ll invite businesses to sponsor station names and Tube lines,” he told The Telegraph on Saturday evening.

“Dubai makes £419 million through sponsorship. And Dubai’s entire Metro is barely the size of the District Line.

“With TfL’s funding in crisis, we need ideas like this. We’ve done it before, with Barclays and Santander sponsoring our bike hire scheme.

“This proposal will make sure TfL is fully funded and can provide the service we love for generations to come.”

TfL has previously raised funds through similar initiatives, such as the renaming of Surrey Docks station in 1989 after the Surrey Quays shopping centre.

A number of companies have also sponsored the cycle-hire scheme, the docklands cable car, and the London Tube map, while Google is sponsoring Oyster and contactless card-readers on buses and in stations.

While Mayor Sadiq Khan has blamed TfL’s financial woes on the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Bailey has accused the London Mayor of failing to deliver reliable transport in the capital.

Mr Bailey's team says that data from TfL shows the body reported 41 million lost passenger hours in 2019/20, a measure which is used to indicate the effect of service disruptions.

This represented a rise of 55 per cent on figures from Mayor Khan’s first year in office, although a spokesman for London Labour described this analysis as “nonsense.”

Significant changes to projects such as Crossrail and the Northern Line extension have also hit TfL's budgets.