Boris Johnson's record on transport has not been good. Photo: Getty
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For the sixth time since Boris became Mayor, Londoners will be hit with transport fare hikes

The Mayor's planned above-inflation jump in fares will negatively impact London's commuters, and is just one aspect of the wider poor transport legacy of his mayoralty.

For the sixth time since Boris Johnson became Mayor, Londoners will be left with a bitter taste in their mouth when, from January, bus, Tube and rail fares jump by an inflation busting 3.5 per cent. Yet for millions of Londoners their journey into work has become a daily grind of overcrowding, standing and stress.

The fare rises will mean that since Johnson was elected in 2008 on average fares have been pushed up by 42 per cent - that’s 17.5 per cent higher than inflation. Bus travel, which still makes up the majority of journeys on London’s public transport, has fared particularly badly, with a single ticket which would previously have set you back 90p in 2008 up 67 per cent to £1.50 from January.

Tube users have also seen significant increases, with a zone 1-6 annual travelcard going up by around 33% during the Mayor’s time in office. This translates to an extraordinary £584 a year extra which commuters will have to find compared with 2008.

London’s transport infrastructure of course needs modernisation and expansion to keep pace with population growth. But perversely it is the bus passengers facing the highest fare increases who have also suffered the worst neglect under Boris Johnson. During the years 2000- 2012, mostly under the stewardship of the previous Mayor, the number of bus ‘kilometres’ run by TfL increased  by 38 per cent to 490m in order to serve a rapidly growing population and increasing demand for bus services.

By contrast under Boris Johnson’s plans for the period 2012-2020 TfL will only increase services by 4 per cent, even though London’s population is expected to grow by over 1.2m. This means a growth in demand for buses of around 1.3 per cent per year. As the cross-party London Assembly Transport Committee Report Bus services in London – October 2013 says “demand for bus travel in London has been growing at a faster rate than supply and the gap is set to widen.”

Despite promising in his manifesto to “keep fares low”, Boris Johnson has been a prolific fare riser, mainly to hide significant withdrawal of Government investment in our transport system. The Mayor needs to recognise that investment in the capital’s transport system yields benefits to the economic, environmental and social functioning of London.  

Yet Boris Johnson’s record on transport has not been good. Instead of delivering on his manifesto commitment to “cut waste” at TfL, Johnson has relied on annual above inflation fare rises to fund a series of vanity projects. The Thames cable car cost TfL £61m and has seen disappointing passenger numbers since its launch. The launch of the “new bus for London”  has been an effective public relations stunt for the Mayor, but these few services now cost about £30m more each year.

One of the Mayor’s most ill-justified excesses has been his active promotion of the Thames Estuary Airport proposal, which he has spent over £5m on despite experts saying it would present huge environmental, financial and safety risks. This project is outside both his functional legal powers to build and his area of geographical responsibility.

Even projects deemed a success, such as the bike hire scheme have come with a massively inflated bill for the taxpayer. Some, such as the Cycle Super Highways, were so badly implemented that they have required the expense of being redesigned and refitted within their first three years.  There may, at times, be arguments for putting up fares, but against this backdrop of waste it’s impossible for the Mayor to claim this is one of those occasions.

Millions of people rely on London’s public transport system to get to work, making it both an unavoidable cost and a prerequisite to employment. Only a week ago the ONS revealed that wages across the UK had slumped by 0.2 per cent making it clear how much people are still struggling with the cost of living crisis. Boris Johnson’s above inflation fare increase of 3.5 per cent in January will undoubtedly make this worse.

Expecting commuters to pick up the bill for six years of vanity projects and waste will only exacerbate the problems Londoners face, the exact opposite of what the Mayor is meant to be there to do.

Val Shawcross AM is Labour’s City Hall spokesperson for transport

Val Shawcross is transport spokeswoman for the London Assembly Labour Group 

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Beware, hard Brexiteers - Ruth Davidson is coming for you

The Scottish Conservative leader is well-positioned to fight. 

Wanted: Charismatic leader with working-class roots and a populist touch who can take on the Brexiteers, including some in the government, and do so convincingly.

Enter Ruth Davidson. 

While many Tory MPs quietly share her opposition to a hard Brexit, those who dare to be loud tend to be backbenchers like Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan. 

By contrast, the Scottish Conservative leader already has huge credibility for rebuilding her party north of the border. Her appearances in the last days of the EU referendum campaign made her a star in the south as well. And she has no qualms about making a joke at Boris Johnson’s expense

Speaking at the Institute of Directors on Monday, Davidson said Brexiteers like Nigel Farage should stop “needling” European leaders.

“I say to the Ukip politicians, when they chuckle and bray about the result in June, grow up,” she declared. “Let us show a bit more respect for these European neighbours and allies.”

Davidson is particularly concerned that Brexiteers underestimate the deeply emotional and political response of other EU nations. 

The negotiations will be 27 to 1, she pointed out: “I would suggest that macho, beer swilling, posturing at the golf club bar isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

At a time when free trade is increasingly a dirty word, Davidson is also striking in her defence of the single market. As a child, she recalls, every plate of food on the table was there because her father, a self-made businessman, had "made stuff and sold it abroad". 

She attacked the Daily Mail for its front cover branding the judges who ruled against the government’s bid to trigger Article 50 “enemies of the people”. 

When the headline was published, Theresa May and Cabinet ministers stressed the freedom of the press. By contrast, Davidson, a former journalist, said that to undermine “the guardians of our democracy” in this way was “an utter disgrace”. 

Davidson might have chosen Ukip and the Daily Mail to skewer, but her attacks could apply to certain Brexiteers in her party as well. 

When The Staggers enquired whether this included the Italy-baiting Foreign Secretary Johnson, she launched a somewhat muted defence.

Saying she was “surprised by the way Boris has taken to the job”, she added: “To be honest, when you have got such a big thing happening and when you have a team in place that has been doing the preparatory work, it doesn’t make sense to reshuffle the benches."

Nevertheless, despite her outsider role, the team matters to Davidson. Part of her electoral success in Scotland is down the way she has capitalised on the anti-independence feeling after the Scottish referendum. If the UK heads for a hard Brexit, she too will have to fend off accusations that her party is the party of division. 

Indeed, for all her jibes at the Brexiteers, Davidson has a serious message. Since the EU referendum, she is “beginning to see embryos of where Scotland has gone post-referendum”. And, she warned: “I do not think we want that division.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.