Confessions of a Political Animal

November 6, 2008

A good day to bury bad news?

tramAs the country’s attention is focussed across the Atlantic (hopefully a post on that will emerge before long), the Mayor has chosen  today to quietly announce – without mentioning it at yesterday’s public TfL board meeting – that he is, as predicted, dropping the continued development of at least three major transport schemes:

  • the Cross-River Tram (as discussed here)
  • the Docklands Light Railway extension via Barking Reach to Dagenham Dock (as discussed here)
  • the East London River Crossing

Yesterday was all about transport related bluster from Boris in his ludicrous Way to Go! document, admirably dissected by Diamond Geezer here. As far as I can see, the document was drafted by TfL officers before being sent up to the eighth floor of City Hall for various Boris-isms to be added, with the odd bit of Latin and phrases such as ‘traffic-throttling excrescences’ – I think that’s traffic-calming to you and me. Given this is a public-facing consultation document, I’d love to see the Plain English Campaign get its teeth into it.

Today, however, is all about the cold reality of cuts. Johnson will argue that he is following the mantra he set out in Way to Go:

One thing we cannot do is spend tens of millions keeping projects alive, for political reasons, when there is simply no government funding to deliver them. The truth is that we don’t have to cash to do everything we would like, and it is better to be honest than continue to play upon false hopes.

Up to a point, Boris is right that there is no government funding, although I always thought that Tories were supposed to be against state dependency and in favour of innovative private sector funding solutions, or something like that. But by putting the chairs on the tables and going home, Johnson is guaranteeing that there will neverbe funding for these vital projects (I’m a bit sceptial about the details of the current East London bridge scheme, but the principle of building a further below-Tower Bridge crossing is absolutely right). The Mayor would be well advised to study the history of how funding was achieved for the on-going transport infrastructure projects that he hails in Way to Go: Crossrail, the Tube upgrade, the East London Line Extension and the Thameslink Project.

If six months after his first election in 2000, Livingstone had said “There’s no government funding for these schemes this year, so we’re giving up”, they would not now be underway. It was through spending money on developing the schemes technically and building the case for them, plus constant lobbying of government, that eventually they reached the top of the Treasury’s funding queue. Now Boris has left the queue, walked out of the building and cycled off in the opposite direction. Some will argue that Livingstone had it easy – he was a Labour mayor (most of the time) dealing with a Labour government. I can’t say I really buy this argument, especially as Johnson has regularly said he expects a Tory administration from 2010. Doesn’t he think Osborne is going to splash the cash on a Tory-run London?

I, and many others, have rehearsed the arguments on these schemes plenty of times before, so I’m not going to do so again. I’m just sorry that I was proved right when I predicted that a traditional Tory slash and burn agenda lurked beneath Boris’ bumbling exterior.

PS. No news yet on the East London Transit, but I’m not hopeful. I was wrong not to be hopeful. The TfL Business Plan, now available here, pretty much confirms these schemes are going ahead (although they’re not going to push ahead on the extensions beyond the first phases). Boris rejects Gilligan’s advice again? How will the sock-puppeteer cope?






  1. […] [via] […]

    Pingback by “Roll up that map: it will not be wanted these ten years.” — November 6, 2008 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  2. […] week The Animal posted on the unambitious, short-sighted and generally depressing pair of strategy documents that emerged […]

    Pingback by The Silvertown Link: the answer to no-one’s problems « Confessions of a Political Animal — November 10, 2008 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

  3. […] public transport fare rises were going, since they weren’t going to be used for building any transport projects? Well, now we know. Oh, and London’ll miss its air quality targets again, buses in west […]

    Pingback by A Western Democracy? « Confessions of a Political Animal — November 27, 2008 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  4. […] of unsuitable individuals who have then had to resign; removing any ambition or vision from the capital’s transport programme and hiking up fares well above inflation; breaking his pledge to fully fund four rape crisis […]

    Pingback by Bending the facts, not the buses « Confessions of a Political Animal — December 19, 2008 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

  5. […] said the Mayor last year, as a justification for removing any ambition from Transport for London’s infrastructure investment programme. Johnson’s implied […]

    Pingback by Revealed: £2.75m down the River « Confessions of a Political Animal — May 1, 2009 @ 11:17 pm | Reply

  6. […] I argued at the time, but a policy position none-the-less. But those were his predecessor’s unfunded schemes. In […]

    Pingback by A Fare-ly Sketchy Strategy « Confessions of a Political Animal — October 13, 2009 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: