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Monday 3 March 2014

Boris’ Road And Rail Porkies

London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson must get through a lot of trousers, considering the amount of time they spend ablaze: after telling that he wouldn’t be an MP at the next General Election – file that in the Crystal Palace Tramlink category – he now says the Piccadilly Line is about to get driverless trains, and the Hammersmith flyover will be replaced by a tunnel in four years’ time.
And both road and rail assertions are weapons grade bullshit. Let’s take the Hammersmith proposal first: the quickest of the three options being proposed is a “cut and cover” tunnel to take the road under that big gyratory on the south side of the Tube station. Dead easy, yes? Well, no: just below road level are the tracks of the District and Piccadilly Lines.

So that would mean constructing a raft for the railway to rest on while the cutting and covering went underneath it, and a longer and more expensive tunnel because of the longer approaches required. The alternative would be to lower the rail tracks, which would entail horrendous disruption and the rebuilding of Hammersmith station. The longer tunnel options don’t look too promising, either.

What is described as “Option 2”, a much longer tunnel starting much further west and surfacing to the east of Barons Court station, would be crossing the Piccadilly Line at the point it dives down from surface to deep tube running. Threading two large road tunnels – one for each carriageway – through that lot will not be easy. The deep tube tunnels may also scupper the longer “Option 3”.

On top of that would be any need for additional slip roads – conveniently left out of the artists’ impressions – which might in turn mean the dreaded D-word, as in demolition. That equals expensive anywhere in Greater London. So the price tags, ranging from £218 million to £1.7 billion, can be taken with a king-size pinch of salt, and as for “self financing”, that one is for the birds.

And, talking of the Piccadilly Line, which Bozza has been of late, his idea of new and fully automated trains batting around the network by 2016 is the most appalling whopper since, er, the last appalling Bozza whopper. By TfL’s own admission, the Invitation to Tender won’t go out until next year, and that depends on finding some dosh to put behind the order – because right now there isn’t any.

On top of that, new signalling for the Piccadilly Line, which also hasn’t been ordered, will have a lead time taking us well beyond 2020. This is yet another example of Bozza shooting from the hip and hoping everyone will have forgotten by the time the hard word arrives. Whatever gets ordered will have to have cabs, and a train operator sitting in them. And forget the flyunder for some years to come.

Boris Johnson may be popular. But he is a complete and utter charlatan.

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