Stephen Hammond is MP for Wimbledon and was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport between 2012-2014.
At 10pm, the polls close and the future of transport in London will be determined. This will be a vastly different future depending upon who is the winner. Over the last eight years in Boris we have had a mayor who has consistently invested in the network. The improvement in the Tube and the record numbers of people who travel on it daily are a direct result of the update of signalling and improved maintenance of the system. New escalators, upgrades to stations, more staff on platforms – all are part of this Mayor’s commitment to improving customers’ experience.
However, it is not just the Tube that has seen improvement in the last eight years. The bus network has sorted out the unsustainable subsidy that Livingstone allowed to build up. This network used to cost Londoners over £800 million a year. This money was not put to good use – instead of moving us all round London, buses turned Westminster Bridge into a bus park. Boris has transformed this situation, with the subsidy now less than a quarter of what it used to be. Buses are now fuller and new, environmentally friendly models are on our roads. And, of course, the bendy bus has been banished and the iconic Route-master has returned.
In London an increased 640,000 cycle journeys take place daily. Boris has been the personification of this increase; he has truly been the cycling mayor. He introduced new cycle routes – not all of which are popular – cycle priority lanes and recognised the need for better cycle safety. The biggest and most recognisable achievement has been the “Boris Bike”. These easy to use bikes, although sponsored initially by Barclays and now Santander, will always be associated with Boris. The lives of Londoners have been transformed as many use the bike as part of their journey to work. This summer just count the number of tourists using a Boris Bike to tour our city.
And there is more – keeping the congestion zone, the low environment zone, retaining the Freedom Pass, encouraging environmentally efficient taxis and buses, and of course the development of the London Overground network. Last week, my colleague James Berry set out the case for Boris’s legacy of investment; I think the case for Boris’s legacy with regard to maintaining, running and upgrading the network is equally powerful.
Very soon, a new Mayor will have been chosen. If Zac is elected his Action Plan for London will build on Boris’ legacy but it also contains detail and ambition for the next four years. Zac will build on Boris’ legacy with a commitment to continue to invest in vital Tube upgrades. The work has been started but needs to be finished with continued investment, for example the sub-surface line signal renewal will transform the lives of many in South West London. The new S-stock carriages have been introduced under Boris but new trains are needed on more lines – Zac has a commitment to new carriages on the Northern and Jubilee lines.
The commitment to build on Boris’s legacy is evident in other modes of transport as well. Zac has promised to take more lorries off the road, tackling air pollution by setting a goal for clean cars and ensuring taxis and mini cabs are emission free by 2020. Zac’s Action Plan sets out proposals to extend both the Brompton and the Boris Bike schemes. He explicitly recognises that if we are to build anything like 50,000 new homes a year we will need new transport links to support them. So support for Crossrail 2, the Sutton Tramlink, and extensions to the Northern line, the Bakerloo line and the Overground will help to unlock the potential for up to 270,000 new homes.
London is increasingly a 24-hour city and economy, yet our transport often lets us down. The potential for the Night Tube to grow the London economy is widely recognised and so Zac’s commitment to deliver the service as well as his support for night buses is vital. A new, privately financed river crossing at Silvertown will also support both new houses and East London’s economy. Zac has a Transport Action Plan which will keep London moving, build a better network and a better service, tackling congestion and improving air quality.
In contrast Sadiq Khan’s policy on Transport is mired in controversy. Mr Khan has announced a plan to freeze fares and claims this will cost £450 million. The only problem is that only he believes it will cost this amount; everyone else – from TfL to all his opponents and even a candidate for Labour’s Mayoral nomination, Christian Wolmar - disagree with him. The likely real cost is something in the order of £1.9 billion over the term of the next mayoralty. Of course a fare freeze can be delivered, but at what cost? No signalling upgrades and no new carriages means more crowded and delayed Tube journeys. No new extensions to the networks and any plans to deliver new homes will be in jeopardy. Many Londoners will remember Ken’s fare pledge and the increases that followed as the policy unwound.
Transport is important to all Londoners, and today the choice is clear – Zac’s detailed and ambitious plan for London and Londoners building on the legacy of the last Mayor, or a mis-costed experiment under Sadiq Khan, likely to unwind with less investment, transport chaos and commuter misery.