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.
VALUE FOR MONEY
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 www.GreatToryTrainRobbery.co.uk 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.