On the day when a former adviser to David Cameron questions Johnson’s legacy as London Mayor, figures have been released which show that almost £1 billion of Transport for London money has been squandered on a poorly managed Tube project on Boris’s watch.
It means that promises by Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate to succeed Johnson as Mayor, to deliver a tram extension from Wimbledon to Sutton are rendered almost worthless, because there is unlikely to be cash available for such a scheme in future TfL budgets.
Johnson, usually accompanied by Steve O’Connell, the Conservative Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, promised at three elections to deliver a Tramlink extension from Croydon to Crystal Palace. After more than eight years, not a single additional yard of track on that extension has been built.
It is not known whether Old Etonian multi-millionaire #BackZacAndCrack has ever alighted upon anything so common as a tram public transport conveyance. There’s sure to be a photo op arranged for him soon enough, though.It is telling that a close aide to Prime Minister David Cameron should today be comparing Johnson’s record on transport so unfavourably to that of his Labour predecessor, Ken Livingstone.
“The real legacy of moving London’s transport system forward I think happened with the previous mayor, with Ken Livingstone with the big moves – the introduction of the congestion charge and the Oyster card,” Steve Hilton, the former No10 director of strategy, says in an interview being aired on BBC London tonight.
It was Livingstone who first proposed the Crystal Palace tram extension, with a fully costed project which Johnson scrapped soon after taking office in City Hall in 2008.
“In those two areas of transport and promoting London it’s really difficult to think of something specific that you could point at as being Boris Johnson’s legacy,” Hilton says.
Hilton’s comments are, of course, against the backdrop of Johnson having recently declared himself in favour of Brexit at the European referendum, setting himself on the opposite side of a Tory leadership battle to Cameron and Gideon Osborne.
It also demonstrates, yet again, that the Tory Party will put up with any expedient in an effort to gain power. Despite the Conservative hierarchy taking a dim view of bumbling Boris, Hilton reveals in the interview that they went along with his Mayor candidacy after its was suggested by the then editor of the Evening Standard. Not for nothing is London’s evening rag known as the Evening Boris.
It is a relationship which persists: on Saturday, Johnson was treated to a VIP day out at Twickenham for the England v Wales rugger match as a guest of the editor of … the Evening Boris.
Meanwhile, London’s existing transport infrastructure operates close to breaking point on a twice daily basis.
A report out today from City Hall shows that under Johnson, TfL has spent £85 million to get out of a failing Tube signalling contract, its Tube upgrade programme is five years behind schedule, and it now has almost £900 million less to spend on transport improvements.
The London Assembly budget and performance committee’s TfL’s Signal Failure report examines the circumstances behind the appointment of Bombardier Transport to upgrade signalling on the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines.TfL was forced to pay £85 million in 2013 just to cancel the contract with Bombardier, two years after appointment. As a consequence of the failed deal, the Sub-Surface Upgrade Programme (or SSUP) is now five years behind schedule and is forecast to cost nearly £900 million more than expected.
The report is the culmination of nearly three years of scrutiny work by Assembly Members, and it highlights how poor commercial expertise and a lack of IT procurement skills left TfL ill-prepared to appoint a suitable contractor for the project, and vulnerable enough to be duped into a contract which Bombardier was never able to deliver.
It draws attention to a culture at TfL which meant that management was only interested in presenting good news and was in denial about the progress and effectiveness of the programme, allowing it to continue for much longer than it should have.
The delays and over-runs will also cost TfL another £271 million in lost fares on an estimated 11 million journeys per year which cannot be made in the period 2017 to 2013, plus all the over-crowding and inconvenience suffered by London’s long-suffering commuters.
“This is nothing short of a disaster for London,” said John Biggs, the chair of City Hall’s budget and performance committee. “Neither TfL nor Bombardier’s management teams were up to the task of managing the programme, but it is Londoners that will ultimately pay the price in travel delays and inefficiencies.
“What is most remarkable about this affair is that no-one in TfL has been held to account, and the Mayor, who chairs its board, serenely and indifferently acts as if a £900 million increase to the budget isn’t an issue.”
The key players responsible, from Boris Johnson downwards, have suffered no consequence for their mishandling of the matter.
Mike Brown, who was the head of the Underground has been promoted to head of TfL (£534,000 pay package – made up of £354,000 salary and performance related bonuses of up to £178,000), while David Waboso (London Underground’s capital programmes director) was awarded a CBE in 2013, and announced as the president of the Association for Project Management (APM) in November. Seriously.
“In government, heads – political or official – would roll after such financial mismanagement,” Biggs said. “At TfL the key players have been promoted and nobody was to blame.
“It is a scandal.”
Such unforeseen additional costs will place a strain elsewhere in TfL’s budget for the in-coming Mayor in May. The Sutton tram extension relies on significant finance from non-TfL sources, such as Merton and Sutton councils, which like most local authorities are hardly flush with spare cash right now, and therefore it casts severe doubts on the sincerity of Goldsmith’s and O’Connell’s tram election pledges – a bit like the pledges made previously under Johnson.
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