Val Shawcross AM is London Assembly Labour Group Transport Spokeswoman
This week it was revealed that Boris Johnson spent £200,000 of farepayers’ money promoting his New Bus for London on the route 24 and elements of route 11. It could be argued that it is reasonable to spend money promoting a new bus route so that passengers know they have a new way of getting from A to B. However, route 24 has been operating for 101 years, I’m pretty sure Londoners know it exists.
The £200,000 was spent by the Mayor promoting himself and his “New Bus for London”. There were billboards, adverts and £30,000 alone was spent on postcards delivered to 141,000 residents. If that isn’t ‘campaigning on the rates’ then I don’t know what is.
This waste is the latest revelation about excessive costs on the new bus. They each cost £50,000 more than a comparable hybrid bus, for all 600 buses this excess will be £30million. Each bus requires a second crew member when its rear platform is in operation, and this has been estimated to add a cost of £62,000 per vehicle per year, or £37million for all 600 buses. From a man who claims to care about delivering value for money this is truly astounding.
The new buses have also been beset by design flaws with the buses reaching above 300C during the summer because the “air-cooling” system couldn’t cope and the buses were designed without windows. To make matters worse they reached 77% humidity – twice that on the Tube.
The new bus was designed and built by WrightBus, however they came third in the open design competition. Boris drafted in another company to help them with the re-design, at a cost of £428,000 to the farepayer. Boris approached them directly and serious questions have been raised over whether the correct process was followed for a contract of this nature.
The slap dash approach to the new bus follows Boris getting terrible value for money on the Cable Car, which wasn’t supposed to cost the taxpayer any money but actually cost £30million. To make matters worse the sponsorship contract for the Cable Car with Emirates also included clauses that discriminated against Israel and Israelis. It was only under sustained pressure that the Mayor and TfL backed down and had these clauses removed.
The sponsorship of the cycle hire scheme and also the way in which Barclays were chosen as the successful bidder have both been heavily criticised for lack of value for money. Boris reportedly agreed the deal after a 45 second chat in a cloakroom at Davos. The latest hike in annual membership has also failed to increase income as expected and MayorWatch has revealed that the build and operating costs of the scheme are £225m, so far Barclays have only paid £13.5m towards these costs.
Boris seems to think that the rules don’t apply to him, but the truth is there are rules in place to protect the public sector and the public’s interests. Rather than taking a sloppy, intellectually lazy approach Boris should remember he was elected to serve the public interest, not to waste the public’s money.
Under Boris transport fares have risen above inflation for the past five years. At a time when wage growth is stagnant this is piling yet more pressure onto Londoners. Bus fares have gone up by 55% under Boris from 90p to £1.40, hitting Londoners in the pocket. He has already wasted millions on this vanity project and now he has spent even more of our money promoting his ‘Roast-Master’ and himself. Boris will shortly be deciding on how much to raise fares by in January. After five years of inflation-busting increases he needs to ease the pressure on Londoners and keep it to inflation. If he didn’t waste so much money this would be a lot easier.
We are asking Londoners to join with us and support our campaign to make Boris listen and cap this year’s fare rise. During last year’s election campaign Boris said he would “bear down on fare rises” and then raised them above inflation again. This year let’s make him listen and ease the pressure on Londoners.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.