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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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.