Continuing our series where shortlisted Conservative candidates for Mayor of London give their views on key issues. Today it’s transport
Tube strikes cost London £300 million a day. Constructive solutions are needed to tackle the militancy of rail unions. I would ban strikes and replace them with formal arbitration. A pool of retired tube drivers who could provide cover during industrial action will be established. Eventually London will have a driverless Underground network.
With the aim of “banging heads together” some suggest that the Mayor should lead union negotiations. This may look like strength, but actually shows terrible weakness: it shows that you have no confidence in your own managers and all future negotiations would see the unions bypassing management with the aim of making disputes political. Others have said that the negotiations should take place in public: that would merely provide an already politicised union a platform courtesy of the Mayor.
Promises to radically cut fares need to be taken in the context of how TfL is funded. A large proportion of funding is provided in grants from the Government, which is seeking to increase fares and reduce subsidies.
Without a promise from the Government to maintain their grant, substantial fare cuts are simply not possible.
I do promise, however, to put downward pressure on fares by splitting the operational and project parts of TfL. This will provide better accountability and new ways of funding infrastructure through the private sector. This could help fund the Croydon Tramlink extension.
I will also continue to improve cycling safety, as well as extend the Cycle Hire Scheme to, amongst other places, the Greenwich peninsula.
Under Boris, London’s transport infrastructure has seen record levels of investment , including Tube upgrades, new buses, Crossrail, and cycle superhighways. However, our city’s population is growing faster than ever before. We need to continue that record investment just to keep up. London’s business community is clear that Crossrail 2 is a priority – before Crossrail 1 has even opened.
I will prioritise continuing to secure the right deal for Londoners from central government, ensuring Londoner’s commutes are even safer, faster, cleaner and more reliable. But we must also bear down on the cost of travel so it delivers value for money to the Londoners who spend much of their hard-earned wages getting to and from work. That means continuing to improve and expand the network, embracing advances in technology to ensure we make the system more efficient. It also means ensuring that suburban rail services are properly integrated to provide a truly metro-style service, making commutes easier for those living in outer London. As Mayor, I would stand up for the rights of commuters and protect London’s economy from being held to ransom over unwarranted strike action.
I would also continue the current Mayor’s emphasis on promoting cycling in the capital, with a relentless focus on ensuring it is a safe way to travel in London.
If trends continue, black cabs have a very uncertain future and London would be poorer without them, so I would also find ways of balancing the playing field to ensure they can properly and fairly compete.
By whatever method chosen, tube fares in London are far and away the most expensive of any comparable rapid transport system in similar cities. As Mayor I am committed to tackling this and reducing fares on the tube and the urban rail network. I have been told that reducing fares is simply impossible (as I was told with Council Tax when I was a council leader) but I have looked at the finances and the assets deployed plus the rising demand for travel and new future technological developments and while not easy it is certainly possible to reduce fares by 3% per annum. While modest, such a reduction year on year will lead over time to a far more affordable network.
There is also a need to maintain investment in the tube and rail network. Much of the growing demand and improved operating efficiencies of the system will only be possible if future investment is maintained at the planned levels.
I will freeze bus fares as part of the overall plan to secure better affordability.
In many ways we have one of the best transport systems in the world but that is no consolation to the people who experience constant problems, so we must always be open to new ideas. For example, if TfL is better at running a particular line, then let’s let TfL keep doing that. We also face the question of do we go on investing or do we cut fares? I believe that we need to continue investing if we want to cut journey times, meet the increased demand and improve reliability but we also must ensure that Londoners are protected from excessive unexplained rises and never have to pay more for poor performance. I want to see compulsory automatic compensation when firms let Londoners down.
In the same way that London Overground was proposed by railway enthusiasts and voluntary groups such as Railfuture with a real knowledge of railways, I would like to see similar proposals for new lines such as Crossrail 2 and even 3. I also want to see driverless trains on the underground with on-board and station staff dealing directly with customers. As a pedestrian, cyclist and driver where space allows I would like to see more segregated cycle lanes in London to improve safety for everyone, to encourage more people to cycle and to reclaim cycling from the agressive lycra-clad brigade who give cycling a bad name.