18th April 2012 Articles
London would not be hosting the Olympics in 100 days had we not invested in its transport system. With the mayoral campaign dominated by the row over whether we have to choose between investment or cutting fares, Londoners should recall who is really responsible for the current improvements: Ken Livingstone.
Boris Johnson says we must choose between a £1,000 fare cut over four years, proposed by Ken, and the end of TfL’s investment programme. Yesterday, leaked Transport for London emails even claimed Ken’s proposal would cause a cash crunch in 2015. But this is a false choice.
Passenger numbers are accelerating faster than forecasted. The Tube had its busiest day ever on December 9 last year, with 4.17 million journeys, seven per cent higher than the same day in 2010. Ken’s seven per cent fares cut simply returns part of London Transport’s projected surplus for the next four years to Londoners while protecting planned investment.
That investment is crucial. As Transport Secretary from 2009 to 2010, I pushed forward Crossrail, planned by Ken and now proceeding, as well as pioneering the development of High Speed Two, the rail line to transform connections between London and the Midlands and North.
Crossrail exemplifies the tough decisions and long-term strategic commitment we need. The term “Crossrail” was first used 40 years ago. Yet it took until October 2007 for the project to be approved.
As Transport Secretary, I saw at first hand the incredibly complex planning necessary to deliver a project of its size and scale. Decades of lobbying and negotiation were necessary to reach a political consensus — and years more until the tunnellers broke ground.
My experience reaffirmed my view that we need to plan at least 20 years ahead for such projects. So work needs to start now to deliver theschemes that will come to fruition in 2032 — notably High Speed Two and a second Crossrail line, from south-west to north London.
The consequences of failing to plan and invest in this way are considerable. Thousands of jobs from engineering to construction are directly dependent on investment in transport, while thousands of London businesses rely on the network every day.
The imperative is to increase investment while also making London’s public transport affordable.
After analysing Transport for London’s accounts and projections, I firmly believe Ken’s proposed fare cut is both justified and entirely compatible with essential infrastructure investment. Crossrail and other planned investments will still proceed. TfL’s capital budget has been underspent by £1.2 billion over the past four years. The challenge is to get investment under way fast enough. Stronger leadership is essential.
Fares have gone up year on year far ahead of inflation. Ken’s proposed cut would cost approximately £270 million a year, against far higher projected surpluses over the next three years. Cutting fares will also put £1.1 billion back into the London economy.
Over the years, Ken has called all the big transport issues right. He was right to invest in buses and the Tube, to introduce the congestion charge and Oyster card, and to launch Crossrail and London Overground. And he’s right this time about a fare cut and new investment in our transport network.