London Transport: Tories said Ken’s fares were too high. Mayor Boris backtracks.

Although Red Ken’s “high fares” were an issue for Tory campaigners, Boris Johnson appears to be backtracking on that assertion quite considerably – he now argues that fares are too low to be “reasonable”.

In an interview with The London Paper, Boris Johnson argues that there are “real pressures” on TFL’s finances, caused by chronic and historic failures. Thus, it can be concluded that Boris believes passengers are not paying fairly for the services TFL provides.

I seriously doubt that any Londoner – especially with the recession hitting as it is – will be in agreement with Boris’s assertion. I, as  a London transport user, certainly don’t. Already the fares have risen by 6%. A bus journey currently costs £1.10 on the Oyster card for a single journey. I often take the bus from my home in Greenwich to Holborn, mostly at weekends – because out of sheer luck in finding the property I did, I do not need to commute to get to University. But what if I needed to, and couldn’t wake up early enough to take the bus? Near enough five pounds a day if I lived outside of Zone 3 and used either the trains (that accept Oyster pay and g0) or the Underground. I’d very likely be living outside of Zone 3 because I can’t afford to move closer to Central London. So let’s say roughly £5 a day – £25 per week? In some cases, this is up to a third of a Londoner’s income over a year. If Boris believes this is unreasonably low, I beg to differ.

Boris is right about one thing – TFL is in trouble, there are finance issues. However, as I recall, Ken left TFL at least in some sort of balance. It appears that throughout Mayor Boris’s period in office, a huge gaping hole has been blown in the TFL budget – firstly, the halving of the congestion charging zone. Whilst the western extention of the congestion charge has not yet been scrapped, the loss of revenue is estimated to be around £50 – £70 million. However, the cancellation of the £25 gas guzzler charge has given TFL a 50 million projected loss. And this is before one factors in the cost of the Routemaster vanity project  – currently projected to cost TFL between £653m and £766m. I guess it’s little wonder that Mayor Boris thinks we pay too little to cover the hole in TFL’s finances – but not for the service Londoners get. No, we need to pay more because Boris wants his schoolboy fantasy on the road.

However, there’s little indication of what a later fare rise could be – Deutsche Bank have estimate 11%, but no official confirmation as yet.

Which prompts me to say this to our beloved Mayor:

Stop bloody lying to us, tell us if fares need to rise, why they need to rise or go and play with your Routemaster in the Transport Museum.

Yours, a lefty blogger and disgruntled fare payer.


A public transport headache for Mayor Johnson.

During the London Mayoral election, Boris seemed to have a little trouble with the figures for the “replacement Routemaster”. First it was £6m. Then £25m. It seemed a figure was finally settled on at £100m. His indecision and lack of knowledge on his own policy sent even Jeremy Paxman to despair:

Now it’s been reported by the Guardian that the public subsidy for the TFL bus network, including costs for the design and implementation of the Routemaster successor will be in the region of £653m to £766m, according to accounting firm KPMG. Further more, analysts at Deutsche Bank have predicted the fares could rise by 11% to finance the policy. Val Shawcross, the Labour AM and deputy chair of the Assembly’s transport committee has openly criticised the policy in light of the cost revealations: “We all understand that the TfL budget is tight and it is a silly vanity project to be pursuing an open-backed bus.”

Meanwhile, The London Paper reports that passengers are unhappy with the single deck buses recently used as temporary replacement for the supposedly despised bendy bus. Complaints range from lack of seating, which in the rush hour is proving unbearable for many. Coupled with the news that the permanent replacement will cost at least £250,000 (considerably more than the bendy bus), it is hardly surprising that passengers are likely to be grumbling.

An ever-diminshing budget and upset passengers? I don’t recall seeing this in Mayor Johnson’s manifesto – mind you, neither did he. But a little foresight would have certainly helped!