This morning Boris Johnson launched his transport manifesto (PDF), outlining what voters will get if he's re-elected in May.
The main headline is a familiar one: driverless Tube trains, that reliable cure-all for London's transport woes. Boris had already outlined this in an Evening Standard interview a few weeks ago, and we explored the muddled thinking behind it, but the manifesto is at least slightly more realistic, noting that the introduction and extension of Automated Train Control (ATC) will "allow us to move closer to driverless (although not unmanned) trains" within a decade, and vowing that "every train will always have a staff member on board to assist customers". Still, it's the kind of promise that will earn pleasing headlines for a Mayor in an election year without ever being implemented. Christian Wolmar wrote a good post earlier this year about the reasons why.
In another move certain to evince a bellicose reply from the unions, the Mayor also wants a change in the law to mandate a minimal turnout on strike ballots.
Other key pledges from the manifesto:
- Roll out 600 New Buses for London by 2016;
- Cut delays on the Tube by 30% by 2015 (we've already discussed this);
- Lobby government to take over suburban rail routes (previously announced, and something we've aleady covered in detail);
- Secure government support for Crossrail 2, the high-capacity line between Chelsea and Hackney;
- Explore the extension of the Cycle Hire scheme to outer boroughs including Bromley, Croydon, Hounslow and Kingston (denizens of Lambeth, Battersea and Southwark won't be pleased by this);
- Triple the number of Cycle Superhighways by 2015. There is also a section on improving cycle safety, though none of it particularly new;
- Protect the Freedom Pass and lobby the Train Operating Companies for it to be used before 9.30am (after last week's Budget the Mayor might need something attractive for pensionable Londoners);
- Introduce contactless payment, allowing trips to be paid for using a credit / debit card;
- Explore a DLR extension to Bromley and a Croydon Tramlink line to Crystal Palace;
- Set up a 'cabbie cabinet', meeting once a year so that taxi drivers can put their thoughts and concerns to the Mayor;
- Explore the feasibility of a new passenger bridge across the Thames between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges, part of the Nine Elms regeneration and privately funded;
- Remove free transport privileges from young people who misbehave on the network. Interestingly, this would include people who don't give up their seat for their elders. The manifesto has scant detail on how this would be enforced.
Inevitably the manifesto is littered with Livingstone-bashing, most of it hanging around the theme that only Boris Johnson can "negotiate with government" to get the best deal for the capital.
The concern for Boris' campaign team is that transport is an area on which their candidate is the weakest, and has the least to show for his four years in power. The opening preamble to the manifesto claims ownership over several projects — the new Victoria line and Metropolitan line trains, for example — that were began by his predecessor. The incumbent has far less to show for his single term, and may be betting that by promising wonders in his second term, rather than letting the public focus on the relatively meagre achievements of his first, he can win the argument.
Read the full manifesto (PDF).
Photo: AOTS London