Bonkers Boris over the top – but fights for Crossrail

I was at the opening of the exhibition at the London Transport Museum of the effects of the Blitz on Dresden, London and Coventry, and suddenly was slapped hard on the back. ‘Long time since I’ve seen you’ said the blond with the more controlled mop.

You could not say that about his speech, however. His eyes were staring madly as he told how the Blitz had brought people together, created development opportunities and shown the government how important the Tube was to London. He almost made it out to be a cause of celebration, and you could see the German mayor wince, especially as Boris struggled over her title – obermeister – and tried to make a joke of it. ‘I was married to a German woman’ said the chap next to me, ‘and they hate people making fun out of their language. ‘He’s either drunk or making a very good act that he is’ said my other neighbour. Certainly it was an embarrassing performance and Boris seems increasingly to believe in his own persona. It is difficult to conceive why people in the Tory party talk of him as a serious contender to lead it.

On the transport front, he said to me that he was extremely worried about Crossrail -‘it would be madness, madness, to cut it’, he intoned. His battle with Osborne is clearly not won.

  • RapidAssistant

    True, but when it comes to transport (the abolition of bendy buses apart…) he’s very good at taking the gong for things that his predecessor made most of the headway on – the ELL extension, and the dismantling of the PPP. I doubt whether his new Routemaster will ever see the light of day……

  • Matt Durbin

    I thought they were committed to it …

  • Dan

    On Boris – I do have an admiration for those Freedom of Info warriors!

    This is well worth a read – surprised that Bob himslef has not made more of it!

  • RapidAssistant

    Committed is a relative term – all that’s been dug is a few holes in the ground around the intersection of Oxford Street and TCR. Not even a half built tunnel is safe from cancellation – remember the new Thameslink platforms at St Pancras that lay mothballed for some considerable time……before the DfT finally coughed up the money to finish them.

  • Dan

    Good point Rapid – and of course the start of the ‘chunnel’ from the early 1970s – still there I think.

  • RapidAssistant

    Well Dan, Crossrail may end up like the infamous Line 4 of the Budapest Metro – which has been in the making for decades, and there have been holes dug in the city’s streets for it and left for literally years. I recall when I was there two years ago that the projected completion date was 2010 – now it is 2012…….!

  • Matt


    On an unrelated point, do you think NR’s Chairman Rick has made a strategic mistake in very publicly ruling out an internal appointment to replace Mr C.

    The first issue is pay: Too little and you won’t get the right candidate. Too much, and the public furore will be huge.

    How much is too much? Well, before the General Election, George Osbourne talked off signing off all salaries in the public sector that were more than the PM’s (I think that’s £150k).

    As Mr C, gets £613k basic, and Peter Henderson £440k basic, there’s a pretty good chance the new Mr C will earn several multiples of the PM. And that’s before any bonus is considered. And given the likely reaction, I would suspect the successful candidate would demand a ‘risk premium’ as the public reaction and anger to their salary will be loud.

    This situation could heavily influence whether NR is still considered, in the view of Mr Hammond, ‘a private company’.

    The second issue is that the wisdom of an outside boss. To quote the Economist (05 August, ‘Curse of the Alien Boss’)
    “One of the few things that management theorists agree on is that recruiting bosses from outside is something that you should avoid if you can. Listen to über-guru Jim Collins: in “Good to Great”, he observed that more than 90% of the CEOs of his sample of highly successful companies were recruited internally. Or consult Rakesh Khurana of Harvard Business School: in “Searching for a Corporate Saviour”, he described how companies that invest their hopes in a charismatic outsider are usually disappointed. Or read the painstaking studies that come out of the Academy of Management: they show that even companies that are having a hard time are better off sticking with an insider.”

    I’m not saying that an outsider would be wrong for NR: It could be one of the rare occasions when it’s the right thing to do. However Chairman Rick has closed off his backup plan of an internal appointment if the right external appointment can’t be found for an acceptable salary.

    Ruling out one of the current board may play well to the industry gallery, sick of NR’s alleged arrogance (just as they were sick of Railtrack’s arrogance – remember John Armitt in 2003 saying that Network Rail was ‘part’ of the railway, not the ‘heart’ that Railtrack made itself out to be?) and looking for change. But it’s a gamble.

  • Tom

    Interesting Boris is so friendly, I recall his greenhorn ‘transport’ advisor Kulveer Ranger being rather rude about you once, Christian. You were a ‘dinosaur’, apparently, a term he seemed to be applying to people who thought in terms of a modal hierarchy in city transport. Perhaps next time Boris puts his arm round you you could get your own back by asking him where he dredged Ranger up from; as you probably know, not many transport professionals have a clue why he got elevated to his current position.

    Germans and language: true, it’s my second language, and Boris taking a line through Commando magazine when dealing with the Boche is just idiocy. In my experience the Germans are extremely well disposed to the British, so acts like Boris’s are plain rude as well as counterproductive when dealing with a major ally.

  • Sean

    I saw Boris give make an equally crass speech in Trafalgar Square on the occasion of Keith Park’s statue unveiling, telling the assembled veterans and RAF dignitaries that he had never heard of the WW2 hero before but that he would now consider renaming Hyde Park “Park Park”.

    Ranger had a paucity of relevant experience – working at a management consultants connected with some transport projects, but was a former Tory PPC so the boy got the job.