With only 36 days left until Londoners go to the polls to elect their next Mayor the race is too close to call. In recent weeks the campaign has focussed on London’s transport network, and whilst Boris Johnson promises to continue his work to upgrade the Tube network and keep London moving Ken Livingstone’s flagship pledge to cut Tube fares by 7% if elected has been condemned by financial experts. As reported in the Evening Standard the week before last the ratings agency Moody’s, which analyses the financial health of organisations and provides credit ratings, is warning that the reduction in revenue which would result from a 7% cut in fares could jeopardise TfL’s AA credit rating which would in turn leave it in financial chaos. Daniel Moylan, the deputy Chairman of TfL, went so far as to compare a future Livingstone London with Athens: “The big worry here is that you could end up in a Greece situation with a spiral of downward credit rating, higher borrowing costs, inability to borrow and failure to deliver investment plan and maintain services. London today- Athens tomorrow. That could be the future for TfL.”
Such a catalogue of events would result in the inevitable abandonment of the planned Tube upgrades which would quickly leave the already aging Tube lagging further and further behind its equivalent networks in other major cities around the globe. This would be disastrous not only for London but for the U.K. economy as business would slowly drain out of London towards other major cities with a more reliable infrastructure more conducive to doing business.
None of us can deny that Ken Livingstone’s promise to cut fares is tempting, but we have to look to the future and accept that in the long term it is completely unsustainable. We all want the same thing: a Tube network which is fast, efficient, and cheap and which supports London as the global business centre it is. To achieve such a goal we need to take action now to secure the future of the Tube, the future of London, and the future of the U.K.
Boris Johnson began this process four years ago and has achieved much already: he has fought for and secured the biggest upgrade of the Tube network on record which will increase capacity of the Underground by 30%; he has started to build Crossrail which on completion will add 10% capacity to London’s transport infrastructure; and most astoundingly since Boris came to power an average of a million passenger hours per month have been saved on the Tube, as verified by Channel 4 FactCheck.
Furthermore Boris has reduced the pressure on the Tube network by extending the Oyster card to include river travel on the Thames Clipper services; by removing the unpopular ‘bendy buses’ from service and reducing crime on buses by 30% rendering the bus network much more desirable to use; and by introducing the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. There are now 6000 bicycles available for hire at over 400 docking stations across London and in the first six months of the scheme 10,000 kilometres were cycled over the course of two and a half million journeys.
Boris’s achievement in keeping London moving with ever increasing efficiency is just one element which has contributed to his successful four year term: Boris has also reduced crime across London by 10.6%; removed 11,000 knives and guns from the streets; and saved £3.5 billion by cutting waste at City Hall.
It is up to us now to ensure that on May the 3rd Boris is given the opportunity to continue steering London in the right direction.