London Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled his plans for London transport in “the biggest transformation since the Victorian age”.
Speaking to Conservative activists in Canary Wharf the Mayor of London - fighting for re-election in less than two months time, also hinted that Ken Clarke had been opposed to the mammoth CrossRail project currently being built underneath the city.
According to Johnson, a government minister had described it to him as “a giant trench across London”. He added mischievously, “I’m not going to name names, but it was someone not far from the Justice Department”.
The London Mayor claimed he would be the best candidate to represent London “I rugby tackled my friends in No. 11, and got a good settlement in the CSR”.
He warned of an “intensified crisis” in London transport as it has to cope with increasing numbers of users – “at levels not seen since the 1950’s”.
London’s transport system should not have to cope “within the creaking, straining corsets of Victorian infrastructure”, he said.
He said he would seek to expand the amount of driverless trains being used on London transport. "I can drive a Jubilee line train, and that’s saying something," he quipped.
Johnson pointed to other underground systems to support his plan, pointing out that some parts of the Paris metro already run with automated trains.
“Will we let ourselves be left behind by Paris? Even the most reactionary trade union leader should be in favour of this!”
The mayor declared a drive for financial efficiency, saying he wouldn’t spend “money on a load of old cobblers like the previous administration”.
Johnson said he had managed to find £2bn in the TFL budget already. He cut the number of TFL directors by 25%, “as they luxuriated in their offices”. 23 buildings and over 6000 desks have been sold, according to the Mayor.
One of the biggest savings, Johnson said, was ending the private-public partnership model for London transport. He described it as a “license to steal… one of the most baleful legacies of the Gordon Brown epoch”.
Johnson mounted a strong defence of London’s bike-hire scheme, attacking suggestions that the scheme was originally developed by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone:
“They had no plan and no budget. Nor did they have a plan on how they’d raise the budget for the bikes. With their policies, who’d they get to fund it? ASLEF? The RMT?”
He went on to thank Barclays for supplying £50m of funding for the bikes. “I think they could do another £50m, let’s send a message across to them!” he added.
The mayor pledged to find extra savings through new technology and safety measures. “The fewer cock-ups there are, the less expense in recovery. That is the way to hold down tube fares. This is not the time to make short-term, unaffordable promises”.
Johnson attacked Ken Livingstone’s time in office as “crazed 1970’s profligacy”.
“£37500 was spent on one trip to see Fidel Castro, of no conceivable economic benefit to London. £10000 on one subscription to the Morning Star. Money was fire-hosed away on pork barrelled rhubarb” he said.
He claimed that it would be a step back to vote for the “newt-fancying, tax dodging” Livingstone, who he criticised for his “high-taxing, chateau neuf-du-pape, bendy-bus fetishism [and] Bolivarian revolutionary socialism”.
The mayor was optimistic about London’s prospects, saying the economy was “unbelievably resilient”. “We are exporting more cake to France, bikes to Holland and TV aerials from wherever it is….Wandsworth!”