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.