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April 16, 2008

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Phil Taylor

Dave,

I suspect what is going on here is an unwillingness on the part of the Boris team to be drawn into a detailed debate with the Mayor on the minutiae of bus finances. Ultimately the Mayor will come off worst - more later, but I suspect they don't want to use up too much airtime on this issue. Livingstone has spent 8 years close to these numbers as chairman of TfL and is capable of spinning them his way whilst avoiding explaining some of the real problems with them.

A lot of what the Mayor says about London's buses is rubbish. They are overcrowded at peak times and empty at off peak leading to a total occupancy of only 15. This means that buses are only 38% less green (CO2 consuming) than all cars on average (TfL figures) and probably no greener than small engined cars. Bus ridership in Manchester and other major urban centres is about the same as London's (DoT figures) so London isn't any kind of outrider in getting people on the buses.

Financially London's buses are a disaster. On the current account TfL lost £617 million on the buses alone in 2006/7. In 2006/7 every bus journey cost TfL 87p but they only managed to collect 55p. Doh! Their bus fare dodging bill is £46.7 million of which £8 million is down to the bendy buses that Boris is seeking to replace. With headline cash fares of £2 and Oyster fares of £1.50 something is clearly awry.

Don't forget Livingstone has invested a lot of our money on telling us about his unaffordable bus fare cut. He used the front page of the Londoner for three months running and there are still TfL poster sites near me carrying this copy. Only all that electioneering was paid for out of the precept and through TfL funds. Fare rises never got this prominence indeed any promotion at all.

One of the Mayor’s own capital expenditure plans for the buses, announced last November, is to spend £10 million on just 10 experimental hydrogen powered buses. The Mayor might think it is his job to give US bus manufacturers R&D money but some of the rest of us are not so sure.

It does not take much wit to work out how you replace one capital asset, the bendy buses, which will have a finite life in any case, with another, newer one, the new Routemaster, and to fund this from the savings you will make by having bus conductors to clamp down on the fare dodging - £8 million will fund a big capital programme. We might not get £100 million of new buses in Boris’s first year but I don’t think anyone was planning for that. The trouble is this kind of argument is difficult to communicate against a background of Livingstone inspired hysteria and misinformation.

It's quite understandable that Livingstone wants to talk about his strong points and vice versa. The Boris campaign have other fish to fry silly. The buses still tend to be a Zone 1 issue and Boris is busily running the outer boroughs talking about their problems.

Jasper Milvain

He's still attacking TfL for its figures in the latest Time Out, by the way.

Damian Hockney AM

On the day that the Tory candidate made the £8 million claim, we called several journalists about it and indeed came to the £100 million+ very easily. It is not rocket science and as you have said is quite straightforward to calculate. However, the infuriating thing here is this. Many of the journalists said - as indeed did a BBC programme - that if I was standing for Mayor they couldn't quote me as such! Another network said they could interview someone else on my team but we mustn't mention we were standing. It would be 'unfair' on other 'minor' parties. This is a good example of how the state rules on the restriction of coverage of 'minor' parties works against democracy, while pretending to 'guarantee' a level playing field.

Liam

This, with a string of other mistakes, means THREE anti-Boris stories have appeared in the Standard today… remarkable.

…Boris says that he would reverse the smoking ban in pubs…. Then admits he’s taken £10k from the Tobacco industry…..

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-23478881-details/Boris%3A+Smoking+ban+referendum+I+take+it+back/article.do

… then he admits on hidden camera that his “£8 million” bendy bus replacements will actually cost £100 millon… (although you've covered this!)

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-23478688-details/My+bus+plans+will+cost+%C2%A3100m%2C+admits+blundering+Boris/article.do

…. Then he tells an asian presenter that he can ‘out ethnic’ her!

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-mayor/article-23478964-details/Boris+to+Asian+host%3A+I%27ll+%27out-ethnic%27+you/article.do

Rob

"Then he tells an asian presenter that he can ‘out ethnic’ her!"

Nihal is a him.

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