TfL wants cake and eat it

The business plan for Transport for London due to be approved tomorrow is a brilliant piece of magic. It manages to combine £7.6bn worth of savings together with what it says is the greatest programme of investment in 80 years. Bits of this are true – there is a great amount of investment coming through, with Crossrail, the Tube upgrades and bits of nonsense,  some enjoyable, like the cable car and some rather less so, such as the cycling superhighways. However, While there is investment a-plenty in the TfL business plan, the need for big fares rises is all too apparent in the small print.

But not all investment has been protected and big fares rises will have to cover for some of the shortfall. A large chunk of money has been saved from the welcome collapse of the PPP, which has allowed cuts to large swathes of staff who spent all their time arguing over responsibilty for bits of the contract, but there have been real cuts, too, in areas such as cycling and walking – Boris really does not get the idea of making London a cycling city which would take little money and make such a big difference to the capital – and some of the Tube upgrades, and the completion of Crossrail, have been pushed forward to save money.

There are too, of course, the reduction in ticket office hours fought against by the unions but largely of no consequence to the Oyster-totting Londoners. As ever, the RMT does itself no favours with language which almost echoes Enoch Powell and his ‘rivers of blood’. None of that, fortunately,came about and nor, hopefully, will Bob Crow’s dire warnings:  ‘…maintenance takes another hit, turning the underground into a death trap and a criminals’ paradise. Security and safety will be compromised in the run up to the Olympics’.

There is much smoke and mirrors, and vagueness, epecially in the realm of fares. Fares income is scheduled to go up by 10 per cent next year in the plan, but with employment growth likely to be pretty limited, much of that will have to come from rises.

Stupidly, of course, Boris threw away the income from the Western charging zone, which could have been used to help keep fares down or continue with the cycling programme. Overall, despite all the investment, there is no sense of a plan or a vision. After three years in office, Boris has never come close to articulating that, precisely because he his hamstrung by his failure to differentiate between modes and his ideological commitment to the private car , despite all the evidence that central London is better off with as few as possible.

  • Mark

    So if London is best served by less cars how can it be prudent to allow Private Hire Vehicle drivers to increase at 700 a month?

  • Farci

    Any shared use of a car is better than allowing growth of private vehicle use. Trains, tube, trams and buses can’t operate door-door so PHVs fill in, always assuming they are properly regulated.
    Are you a black cab driver, perchance?

  • Greg Tingey

    The Cable-Car is/will be an unmitigated disaster.
    So what’s the point?

    Cancelled projects that REALLY would have been good ideas:
    Tramlink-extension(s) and Cross-River Transit.

    Boris is sometimes a buffoon, but … a huge number of Londoners will never vote for Ken again – for reasons that are nothing to do with transport.

  • Matt

    “Boris really does not get the idea of making London a cycling city which would take little money and make such a big difference to the capital”

    The Economist 6 Jan 2011:
    “Economists might recognise a phenomenon called “path dependency”: London has for so long been dominated by cars that installing proper cycle lanes might mean demolishing some buildings and closing busy roads for long periods. With cycling accounting for only one trip in 50, it would be a brave mayor who did that.”

    Christian: Your words and the Economists are very different. I respect both your opinions. Who’s right in this instance?

  • RichardH

    It’s not 1 in 50 trips in London. I think it was Mr Wolmar himself who posted a link on here somewhere about the number of cyclists vs cars on London’s bridges in rush hour. Roughly equal numbers. But far from equal road space or provision in general.

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  • Anonymous

    Me of course, Matt. Boris says that you have treat all modes equally. If he really understood cycling, he would realise that given cars have been preferred for so long, you have to work hard to create a cycle friendly roads system. That involves taking away roadspace from cars, prioritising cycling in the way that Copenhagen does it, not merely tacking on a few bits and pieces.
    Thankfully, though, to some extent as Richard H suggests people have been voting with their wheels, and the sheer numbers in central London mean that it is safer and easier to cycle. But so much more could be done for so little money – London Cycling Campaign has a v good plan, for example.

  • James Strachan

    Perhaps “a brilliant piece of magic” is actually cutting out the waste and self indulgence for which TFL have become notorious.

    Money spent in the public sector does not always benefit the public.

  • Anonymous

    I wouldnt’ say that Boris was sometimes a buffoon – more like he is…..I mean even from 400 miles away I can see that he treats being Mayor of London as a trophy to put on his CV on the way to bigger and better things than actually caring about the needs of Londoners…….I’m not saying that Ken is any angel either by any means – his big mouth that he can’t keep shut has always been his downfall and undermines the genuine public servant that he is, and that Boris never will be.

    Given the closeness of the 2008 election – if I were a betting man I don’t particularly rate Boris’ chances next year given the tiniest of swing that would be required to put Ken back in City Hall.

  • I used to use the zones 2-6 (cost: £5.10) and the zones 2-9 (cost: £5.60) one day travelcards (ODTC) (paper tickets) which did not suffer from ‘journey time limits’. With these I could travel safe in the knowledge that I would not suddenly be charged extra if there was a snafu with Oyster PAYG, or if my journey took ‘too long’.

    However citing lack of use, at the last fares revision TfL withdrew the 2-6/9 ODTC’s and passengers wanting one day tickets must now buy versions which include zone 1. Worse still, these are no longer available at local newsagent / ticket stops, which means that one must travel to a station to buy them…. Having intentionally made them more difficult to purchase are TfL planning to use ‘lack of use’ as an excuse to get rid of these too?

    It gets worse.

    At an eye watering £11 a time the 1-9 ODTC costs 20 pence short of twice the price of the former 2-9 ODTC.

    TfL say that providing a passenger touches in / out correctly at each end of their journey then they will never be charged more than the paper ODTC fare. However, for all except the simplest of ‘point to point’ journeys I prefer paper tickets, seeing them as ‘much safer’. Below I cite two examples from this year alone which help to explain why.

    Back in January when changing to a tram the freestanding Oyster card reader at Elmers End station treated my ‘touch out’ as an entry and I found myself having penalty amounts removed from the card. Plus the cost of that journey was ignored when calculating the ‘fares capping’. In the end I had to get a refund from TfL’s Oyster helpline.

    A few weeks ago having spent a day in London which included visiting an exhibition at Earls Court my journey home saw me eschewing the District Line and instead taking a through Overground train from West Brompton to my home station in Essex, changing trains at Stratford. My journey was entirely outside of zone I and whilst at Stratford I used the pink Oyster ‘route validator’ to ensure that I was charged the correct ‘not via zone 1′ fare. On arriving at my home station the ticket gate would not allow me to leave the station because my journey had taken ‘too long’ and my Oystercard did not have enough value on it to pay the penalty fare. Thankfully there was still someone in the ticket office who could help me out.


  • RapidAssistant

    SPT in Glasgow is going to be implementing an Oyster-style system by 2013 in time for the CW Games……it will be interesting how they manage to integrate it across the Underground (which they run entirely) the bus service which they only regulate, not run anymore – and the suburban rail network which was taken back to Transport Scotland control in 2005. It is going to be interesting for sure!