Sadiq Khan's speech on "the great Tory train robbery": full text

The shadow London minister attacks Boris Johnson's "abysmal record of hiking fares year on year".

Delivered at the launch of the Better London Transport campaign in conjunction with the TSSA


I would like to start by thanking you all for coming today.

And by thanking the TSSA for inviting me to speak at the launch of their Better London Transport Campaign during what has been a worrying few days for the future of London transport.

I have had a very personal relationship with London transport throughout my life.

Growing up in a Council flat down the road in Wandsworth, my father worked as a London Bus Driver.

Some of my earliest memories are of him driving the 44 route from Mitcham to London Bridge and like many young boys, wanting nothing more than to grow up to be a London bus driver too.

That dream never came true, which is probably a good thing.

The closest I came was trying the virtual TFL bus simulator when I first became Transport Minister. I can’t tell you how excited I was. That was until I crashed my virtual bus into a bridge and lost the top in the process – it ain’t as easy as it looks.

But my relationship with London transport continued none the less.

As a London MP, as Transport Minister responsible for London during the last Government and now as Shadow London Minister, it has always played a big role in my life.

For commuters in London, catching a bus, tube or tram is about more than just getting from A to B.

In a city the size of London affordable, accessible and high-quality transport keeps people connected with one another and provides the essential foundations for economic development.

50% of Londoners use public transport to get to work every day.

If our public transport doesn’t work then London doesn’t work either.

Good transport networks are of unparalleled economic benefit to cities, enticing new investment, jobs and opportunities.

Take Crossrail for example.

Links to the city and central London will attract businesses and jobs to areas in East and West London that desperately need both and will make it easier for local people to find and take work in central London.

It will transform large swathes of London and the lives of thousands of Londoners as a result.

We know this from experience.

You only have to look at the difference the jubilee line has made to Southwark and Bermondsey which are unrecognisable from the areas I knew when I was growing up.

Our tube, bus, tram and road network is essential to London maintaining its position as an economic powerhouse and to allowing Londoners to enjoy the cultural benefits that this brings.

But I want to focus this evening on just 2 specific but vital aspects of London Transport. Affordability and value for money.


We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis in London that risks making public transport unaffordable for hard working Londoners.

Did you know that David Cameron has the worst record of any British Prime Minister on the cost of living?

Under his Government, real wages have fallen for 36 consecutive months.

For 36 months in a row, life has got harder and living standards have fallen.

This crisis is costing every Londoner over £42 a week.

By the time of the next election the average family will be £6,660 worse off as a result.

That is enough to pay for the weekly shop for almost 18 months.

Prices are rising sharply on every bill.

Average rents rose by 7.9% in London last year.

House prices rose by 8.1%.

Gas and electricity bills are on average £300 a year higher than when David Cameron entered Downing Street.

And only this week we learnt that Thames Water have increased Bills at twice the rate of inflation already this year and plan to put an additional £29 charge on every Londoners bill.

At the same time wages are falling in real terms.

In the first part of this year, average wages increased by just 0.8% – the lowest level since records began.

Londoners are being squeezed between rising bills and frozen wages and it means that every month wages go less far and increasingly difficult decisions have to be taken about household budgets.

Of course the other big cost in every Londoners life is transport.

Transport is one of our most unavoidable outgoings.

For most commuters there is simply no alternative to using public transport to get to work.

The daily commute in London is the most expensive in the world.

A single journey in London is more than twice the equivalent cost in New York, Paris or Milian and a third more expensive again than Copenhagen.

A zone 1-4 travel card is almost double the price of Berlin and three times more expensive than in Los Angeles or Rome.

And it’s getting worse.

Boris Johnson has an abysmal record of hiking fares year on year that has contributed massively to the cost-of-living crisis in London.

Since he became Mayor the cost of a single bus journey has increased by 56 percent.

In 2008 a single pay-as-you-go journey on a bus or tram cost just 90 pence.

The same journey today will cost you £1.40.

The price of a travel card from zones 1-6 has increased by £440 a year.

That’s a bigger hike than even gas and electricity bills.

In a few weeks’ time, the Mayor will be announcing the rate of fares for next year.

Londoners simply cannot afford another inflation busting increase to the cost of travel.

The Mayor must recognise that Londoners are struggling more than ever before and that their budgets can’t keep stretching forever.

He must take action to ease the pressure for ordinary Londoners by freezing fares at least at the rate of inflation for 2014.

He can afford to do so.

All that is missing is the political will.

The cost of freezing fares at inflation pales into insignificance compared to the amount wasted on the Mayor’s vanity projects and by his failure to get value for money from TFL.

Freezing fares at inflation would cost a fraction of the £60 million Boris Johnson has wasted on the Cable Car and the millions wasted on creating the world’s most expensive operational bus.

Including the cost of the additional crew number these buses need, they will cost £37.2 million more than an ordinary bus.

And that’s without paying for a new air conditioning system!

An inflation freeze is certainly more affordable than the 365 members of TFL staff who earn over £100,000 pounds a year, the £22,000 of expense claimed by just 7 members of staff and the £50,000 a year paid to provide TFL bosses with private healthcare.


But getting value for money from TFL means two different things.

As well as ensuring the Mayor makes the most out of every penny he spends on our transport system, it also means ensuring that the service that commuters get for their fares reflects the amount they are paying for their journey.

And the value that Londoners get from the highest fares in the world is set to drop dramatically over the next few years.

On Monday the Mayor’s secret plans to close every TFL ticket station in London over the next 2 years were revealed.

These plans will have a devastating effect on the daily commute.

Everyone has had to depend on a ticket office when the ticket machines are out of order or their Oyster card has stopped working.

Under the Mayor's plans you will now have nowhere to turn in these everyday situations.

On top of this, commuters will understandably feel less safe using deserted stations late at night, particularly older commuters and children.

The plans will lead to the loss of 2,000 jobs over the next two years alone.

And what worries me most is that there will be fewer staff at London stations to cope in an emergency situation.

Boris Johnson pledged to keep a ticket office open at every tube station in his manifesto.

This is one of the worst examples of breaking a manifesto promise I have ever seen in London politics.

No wonder the public are so cynical of politicians

Every journey should matter to the Mayor and he must not go ahead with these closures that ignore the needs and safety of hard working Londoners and significantly reduce the value they get for their sky high fares.

"There is little financial, strategic or common sense in these closures"- not my words but of the Mayor in his manifesto.

This should be as valid when you are trying to get Londoners to vote for you as they are once they have.

The effect will be felt across London; in Harrow, Redbridge, Wimbledon and Croydon, getting to work will get harder and stations will be less safe.

Londoners deserve better than to be paying more every year for a worse service.

And that’s why we’ve launched our campaign today against Boris Johnson’s plans to hike up fares and cut staff and ticket offices.

In just a couple of hours thousands have signed our petition. Over the next few days and weeks we will be rolling this out around London.

Please go to and sign it today.


London transport faces many challenges in the years ahead and I’m sure you will hear more about them from our other speakers a little later today.

We should be proud of the transport system we have and endlessly ambitious for its future.

We need to continue improving and upgrading our existing networks, no easy task on a network with as much history as ours.

The tube network is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

The ten year improvement plan has resulted in a more reliable and regular service.

But we need to go further.

If we want London to stay as the greatest city in the world, we must aim to have the best transport system too.

We need more lines and services to cope with our growing population.

Speaking as a former Crossrail minister, crossrail must be seen as just the start of this process and we need to be aiming to open new lines far more frequently.

By the time Crossrail opens, Paris will have completed 6 new lines in the same period.

We need to improve and expand the networks that keep outer London connected like the trams and buses.

We need to do more to get Londoners cycling and walking to work and to further reduce reliance on cars.

It is embarrassing that in the country that that has produced the last 2 Tour De France winners and dominates Olympic Cycling, we still only do 2% of our journeys by bike.

But fundamental to all these future challenges is providing a transport network which is both affordable to ordinary Londoners and provides great value for money.

Unless we get that right, the rest of our ambitions will never become reality.

Thank You.

Shadow justice secretary and shadow London minister Sadiq Khan speaks at last year's Labour conference in Manchester. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Brexit confusion is scuppering my show – what next?

My week, from spinning records with Baconface, Brexit block and visiting comedy graves.

I am a stand-up comedian, and I am in the process of previewing a new live show, which I hope to tour until early 2018. It was supposed to be about how the digital, free-market society is reshaping the idea of the individual, but we are in the pre-Brexit events whirlpool, and there has never been a worse time to try to assemble a show that will still mean anything in 18 months’ time.



A joke written six weeks ago about dep­orting eastern Europeans, intended to be an exaggeration for comic effect, suddenly just reads like an Amber Rudd speech – or, as James O’Brien pointed out on LBC, an extract from Mein Kampf.

A rude riff on Sarah Vine and 2 Girls 1 Cup runs aground because there are fewer people now who remember Vine than recall the briefly notorious Brazilian video clip. I realise that something that gets a cheer on a Tuesday in Harrogate, or Glasgow, or Oxford, could get me lynched the next night in Lincoln. Perhaps I’ll go into the fruit-picking business. I hear there’s about to be some vacancies.



I sit and stare at blocks of text, wondering how to knit them into a homogeneous whole. But it’s Sunday afternoon, a time for supervising homework and finding sports kit. My 11-year-old daughter has a school project on the Victorians and she has decided to do it on dead 19th-century comedians, as we had recently been on a Music Hall Guild tour of their graves at the local cemetery. I wonder if, secretly, she wished I would join them.

I have found living with the background noise of this project depressing. The headstones that she photographed show that most of the performers – even the well-known Champagne Charlie – barely made it past 40, while the owners of the halls outlived them. Herbert Campbell’s obelisk is vast and has the word “comedian” written on it in gold leaf, but it’s in the bushes and he is no longer remembered. Neither are many of the acts I loved in the 1980s – Johnny Immaterial, Paul Ramone, the Iceman.



I would have liked to do some more work on the live show but, one Monday a month, I go to the studios of the largely volunteer-run arts radio station Resonance FM in Borough, south London. Each Wednesday night at 11pm, the masked Canadian stand-up comedian Baconface presents selections from his late brother’s collection of 1950s, 1960s and 1970s jazz, psychedelia, folk, blues and experimental music. I go in to help him pre-record the programmes.

Baconface is a fascinating character, whom I first met at the Cantaloupes Comedy Club in Kamloops in British Columbia in 1994. He sees the radio show as an attempt to atone for his part in his brother’s death, which was the result of a prank gone wrong involving nudity and bacon, though he is often unable to conceal his contempt for the music that he is compelled to play.

The show is recorded in a small, hot room and Baconface doesn’t change the bacon that his mask is made of very often, so the experience can be quite claustrophobic. Whenever we lose tapes or the old vinyl is too warped to play, he just sits back and utters his resigned, philosophical catchphrase, “It’s all bacon!” – which I now find myself using, as I watch the news, with ­depressing regularity.



After the kids go to sleep, I sit up alone and finally watch The Lady in the Van. Last year, I walked along the street in Camden where it was being filmed, and Alan Bennett talked to me, which was amazing.

About a month later, on the same street, we saw Jonathan Miller skirting some dog’s mess and he told me and the kids how annoyed it made him. I tried to explain to them afterwards who Jonathan Miller was, but to the five-year-old the satire pioneer will always be the Shouting Dog’s Mess Man.



I have the second of the final three preview shows at the intimate Leicester Square Theatre in London before the new show, Content Provider, does a week in big rooms around the country. Today, I was supposed to do a BBC Radio 3 show about improvised music but both of the kids were off school with a bug and I had to stay home mopping up. In between the vomiting, in the psychic shadow of the improvisers, I had something of a breakthrough. The guitarist Derek Bailey, for example, would embrace his problems and make them part of the performance.



I drank half a bottle of wine before going on stage, to give me the guts to take some risks. It’s not a long-term strategy for creative problem-solving, and that way lies wandering around Southend with a pet chicken. But by binning the words that I’d written and trying to repoint them, in the moment, to be about how the Brexit confusion is blocking my route to the show I wanted to write, I can suddenly see a way forward. The designer is in, with samples of a nice coat that she is making for me, intended to replicate the clothing of the central figure in Caspar David Friedrich’s 1818 German masterpiece Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog.



Richard Branson is on the internet and, just as I’d problem-solved my way around writing about it, he’s suggesting that Brexit might not happen. I drop the kids off and sit in a café reading Alan Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem. I am interviewing him about it for the Guardian in two weeks’ time. It’s 1,174 pages long, but what with the show falling apart I have read only 293 pages. Next week is half-term. I’ll nail it. It’s great, by the way, and seems to be about the small lives of undocumented individuals, buffeted by the random events of their times.

Stewart Lee’s show “Content Provider” will be on in London from 8 November. For more details, visit:

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage