While some in the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate keep the flame burning for the Prime Ministerial prospects of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, one of the skeletons rattling away in his cupboard resurrected itself this morning, to the detriment of tens of thousands of commuters.
An absolute Muppet. And Elmo from Sesame Street
A significant part of the London Underground was paralysed by a catastrophic signalling failure at Earl’s Court. This took out all the Sub-Surface lines (SSL - meaning the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City) as well as the Piccadilly. The effects are continuing to be felt.
And while the press has been covering the actual failure, the reasons behind it have somehow been missed, which is most convenient for Bozza, because much of it leads directly to his door. It was on his watch that the SSL resignalling contract was awarded in 2011. It was also on his watch that the contract was junked two years later, thus meaning old and worn-out signalling had to remain in service rather longer.
Moreover, because the Piccadilly has to share tracks with the District west from Baron’s Court, that line’s resignalling has also been pushed back, as has the renewal of the already 40-odd year old train fleet. It is not a coincidence that the SSLs and the Piccadilly Line are increasingly plagued by serious signal failures (the signalling contract that was junked replaced an earlier one … which was also junked. More delays).
Why London Underground should have even considered the system they agreed to buy in 2011 - Bombardier’s CityFlo650 - at first appears a mystery. It had only been proved in service on airport people movers, and one end to end Metro line in Madrid. But for Bozza, it offered the holy grail of future automatic operation - the mythical driverless (and therefore Union bashing) Tube he had been fraudulently promising Londoners.
What Londoners got instead was the Bombardier deal junked, although some of the £345 million contract had to be paid up, and a replacement deal with Thales which is coming in at £760 million. You read that right. Plus the sure and certain knowledge that giving Thales the nod to do the rest of the Piccadilly Line will add rather more to the price tag.
We know the history of this shameful chapter in the long list of shameful chapters pertaining to the Johnson Mayoralty through the efforts of the late Tom Barry, who put together the chapter and verse at Boris Watch - while the Evening Standard spent Bozza’s eight years in office singing his praises and keeping schtum about the affair.
Meanwhile, the Piccadilly Line trains will celebrate their 50th birthday before being replaced, with their cousins over on the Bakerloo Line maybe getting close to their 60th before going to the scrapheap. All this is part of the scandal of a Mayoralty the press failed to hold to account - partly because Bozza was one of their own.
What you will not read in any of the papers. And that’s not good enough.