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Monday 14 January 2013

Boris The Transport Hypocrite

London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has today dedicated his Maily Telegraph column – for which he trousers a quarter of a million notes a year in “chicken feed” – to the subject of transport. “It’s transport that will carry us down the road to recovery” he tells the Tel’s readers. Bozza’s epiphany appears to have been precipitated by his participation in an anniversary event yesterday.

As part of the celebrations of 150 years of underground railways in London, the London Transport Museum (LTM) ran a steam train – the Metropolitan Railway was for its first years steam powered – from Olympia via Paddington and Baker Street to Moorgate, where there is a generally unused turnback platform. Bozza was on board, although I somehow doubt he paid for his seat.

No matter, Bozza has now revealed himself as a great champion of all things rail transport, right down to admitting that the HS2 project will go ahead, and terminate at Euston – this enables him to talk about Crossrail 2, aka the Chelsea-Hackney Line, although the currently protected route for the project does not go via Euston. But some may not be so happy about Bozza’s enthusiasm.

And that is because his record as Mayor does not exactly show an unswerving commitment to rail transport. True, the first Crossrail line is going ahead, but then, without it, all those retailers and bankers might not have helped vote him back into office last year. It was not always like that. Soon after starting his first Mayoral term, Bozza was cancelling projects, not supporting them.

The Cross River Tram (CRT) was enthusiastically endorsed by Ken Livingstone. This would have run from Camden Town to Peckham and Brixton – taking in part of London that has historically been ignored by the Underground – via Waterloo Bridge and Elephant And Castle. Bozza was at first equivocal on continuing the project, and then at the end of 2008 he effectively cancelled it.

More recently, and yet more cynically, Bozza used the project to extend Tramlink to Crystal Palace as a vehicle for self-promotion in the run-up to the 2012 Mayoral elections, having no problem posing in front of one of the new Tramlink cars showing “Crystal Palace” on its destination indicator. What appeared to be firm commitments, however, were dropped after Bozza got back into City Hall.

And those at the LTM who helped to put on the commemorative special train that Bozza talks of so enthusiastically must have been biting their lips yesterday, knowing that despite the bonhomie, the Mayor has cut their funding significantly: the LTM will have to get by with its £12 million budget slashed by £2.5 million. There will be job losses. So don’t believe Bozza when he sounds so supportive.

Boris Johnson is just another of those here today, gone tomorrow politicians.

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