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Wednesday 5 June 2013

Boris And The Grant Cut

The chill wind of economic reality has reached the offices of the Evening Standard, also known as the London Daily Bozza, where editor Sarah Sands (partly selected, remember, by Bonking Boris Himself Personally Now (allegedly)) has registered her concern over the forthcoming cut in revenue grant to the capital’s public transport system. And it’s going to be a big cut, too.
So what does Ms Sands think that occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, who in any case will be taking even more time off in the near future to write an appreciation of Winshton, should do when the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, brings the bad news that London’s grant is going to be cut by a whopping 50%?

Ah well. First she tries to get readers to “look over there” at HS2 (wrong) before warning “Tube fares will have to rise, or the young and the old will lose their concessions, or night buses for London’s low-paid workers will be disbanded or the Mayor’s cycling vision has to be dumped”. And the solution? “Johnson has to play hardball with the Government”. Ho yus? Like how?

If Bozza wants the Government to move in his direction, then he must be prepared to reciprocate: a quid pro quo will be demanded, and it will help his cause if he recognises this and moves first. It will not be particularly fruitful to dig his heels in and say “Bung me the dosh or London’s transport gets it”. He must offer real savings, coupled with a practical approach to future big-ticket items.

So what can be offered? Sadly for Bozza, the most obvious candidates are those he has championed, but then, does he want to serve the electorate or what? First on the chopping block has to be his vanity bus project, which will save over half a billion notes over the 14 year service life of the vehicles. Get negotiating a way out with Wrightbus, by committing to buy an equivalent number of ordinary buses instead.

As for the examples of the New Bus For London already delivered, close up the rear platform and run the things as conventional dual doorway vehicles. Then face reality on the ridiculous idea to fully automate the Tube. With those small diameter tunnels, sections at ground level, and the need to ventilate stations, it isn’t practicable. So it’s conventional new trains for the Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines.

Who knows, that might make extending the Bakerloo beyond the Elephant a better proposition. Then move to make the cycle hire scheme wash its face financially – or come close to it. Because it’s a drain London can do without. And after all that, if the vanity cable car can’t be made to make money, consider having it dismantled and taken away. That would show that Bozza is serious about spending wisely.

What you will not read in the Standard this side of push coming to shove.

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