The mayor’s announcement yesterday that he plans to improve London’s transport system at the same time as imposing cuts of £7.6bn has had many of us scratching our heads.
The four-year programme has been described by London's transport commissioner, Peter Hendy as ‘the busiest and most exciting in the history of London's transport network’, but what does it include?
- An upgrade to the Jubilee line to give a 33% increase in capacity across the line
- A 21% increase in capacity on the Victoria line, plus new trains and a 19% improvement in times
- A Northern line upgrade to give a 20% increase in capacity and an 18% reduction in travel times
- New trains on the Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and District lines
- Progress on Crossrail - we kind of thought this would be a given, but apparently refers to completion of tunnelling and station construction
- 4000 road traffic signals changed to reduce delays
- Lane rental scheme for utility companies to cut down on unnecessary roadworks
- Extension to the east of the city of the cycle hire scheme towards the Olympic Park
- Cable car crossing between North Greenwich and the Royal Docks
- Completion of all 12 cycle superhighways
- Introduction of the new Boris bus.
- Completion of the London Overground network from Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction - London's first orbital railway
- Introducing the Source London electric vehicle charging network
Now, some of these are pretty familiar and we’ve looked at them in more detail over the last year or so. diamond geezer also points out that a couple of the trumpeted announcements are in fact old news while Mayorwatch casts doubts on the hybrid bus promises. The news also provoked standard-issue alarm amongst the unions - we're staring to wonder if Bob Crow has a string on his back which when pulled provides a standard message of doom: 'These new cuts will drag the underground even deeper into the spiral of decline with breakdowns, failures and disruption a daily fact of life. We can expect a threat to hundreds more jobs while maintenance takes another hit, turning the underground into a death trap and a criminals paradise.' So presumably we can look forward to some more strikes.
Unsurprisingly, TfL's press release was considerably more upbeat, concentrating on the 'huge investment programme' while that pesky sentence '£7.6bn cuts' was rebranded as a 'savings and efficiency programme'. You can read their business plan here. Improving services by reducing inefficiencies is obviously a good thing, but at what cost to the London commuter? We can't help thinking that transport is already fairly tightly squeezed so where do TfL expect the savings to come from?
Well, ticket office staffing changes is one area, though we haven't forgotten what happened the last time and we can almost hear the unions rolling up their sleeves to get stuck in. IT systems, renegotiation of contracts and relocation of staff to cheaper locations are all on the list, along with reductions in bus subsidy costs.
All in all, it's a tall order but can it be delievered?