Delivering the Mayor's manifesto

Meeting: 
Plenary on 2019-02-07
Session date: 
February 7, 2019
Reference: 
2019/2090
Question By: 
Florence Eshalomi
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Question

Answer

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto

Answered By: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Thank you, Chairman, and thank you for your question, Assembly Member Eshalomi.

 

I am incredibly proud of the improvements we have made to London’s transport network.  As promised, we have helped to make travel more affordable for millions of Londoners.  When I became Mayor, Londoners were paying some of the highest public transport fares of any major city in the world, but by 2020 my fares freeze would have saved the average London household around £200.  Since 2016, we have also managed to introduce the Hopper bus fare, got the Night Tube up and running, improved accessibility across the transport network, increased services on the Jubilee and Northern lines, invested record sums in new cycle routes, made great progress in modernising London’s bus fleet with seven new low-emission bus zones already rolled out, and introduced new signalling on the Circle, District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines, which, once complete, will bring improvements to 40% of the network.  Very soon, we will also be launching the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), supported by a comprehensive bus retrofit to make the entire bus fleet Euro 

VI-compliant.

 

In my manifesto I stated that I wanted London to be a byword for cycling and I am pleased that levels of cycling are forecast to increase by approximately 40% by the end of TfL’s most recent five-year business plan.  That is an average of 1.2 million journeys each day.

 

Crucially, TfL has also led the challenge I set when I became Mayor to become a more efficient organisation.  Efficiency savings exceeded £500 million per annum in 2017/18.  This efficiency drive will continue as TfL identifies further savings by improving processes and making the best use of its property estate to generate revenue.

 

My team and I are delivering on the promises made in my manifesto.  We are making London’s transport system much more modern and affordable and, in a city where so many are struggling with the costs of living, we are making a real difference to the lives of millions of Londoners, something we should all be immensely proud of.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Given TfL’s challenging ‑‑

 

Andrew Boff AM:  Chairman, a point of order, if I may?

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Yes?

 

Andrew Boff AM:  Chairman, it is about the question itself.  The question is:

 

“Given Transport for London’s challenging finances, are you still on course to deliver your manifesto?”

 

The implication of that question is that the manifesto has been delivered, and yet we know that that is not the case.  Part of the manifesto has definitely not been delivered.  Specifically, it says in the manifesto that the Mayor is going to freeze fares:

 

“... by making TfL a more efficient and profitable operation, not by cuts to spending on better services and more capacity.”

 

Given that the Mayor has actually cut capacity, scrapped 27 new trains on the Northern and Jubilee lines, scrapped the improvements to the work at Camden Town Station, all those bases mean that this question must be out of order.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you.  I am ‑‑

 

Leonie Cooper AM: This is outrageous.

 

Andrew Boff AM:  This is a point of order because, if we are going to ask questions, they have to be based in reality.  It is like saying, “Is the Mayor still six foot?”  It is not ‑‑

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Thank you, Assembly Member Boff.  I am hard put to think that this is a question relating to [the Greater London Authority’s (GLA)] Standing Orders because no doubt the Mayor believes that the answer he has given was indeed in order, and so it is simply a matter of opinion.  Under those circumstances, I will rule out your point of order.

 

Andrew Boff AM:  Chairman, it is not a matter of opinion.  It is a matter of fact that the Mayor has not delivered on his manifesto.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Nonetheless, I do not accept that as a point of order.  

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  Given that TfL’s challenges at the moment are quite difficult, you have highlighted some of the key things you have achieved in your manifesto today, about which a number of residents in my two constituencies are very happy; for example, the Hopper.  Some of the top fares changing points were in Southwark and Lambeth.  The fares freeze, again, has made a big impact for a number of people, but there are some concerns that we are seeing.

 

Part of the reason for the difficult and challenging finances is the delay to the Elizabeth line.  Are you able to update us on the progress that Bombardier is making on that?

 

 

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Thank you for your question and your comments.  I will bring in the Commissioner shortly, but it is worth just saying this.  As far as I am concerned, as the Mayor and the Chair of TfL, the quality and the quantity of information I now receive since the previous Chair left Crossrail Ltd and we got a new team in is far superior.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  That is good.

 

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  I will let the Commissioner answer your specific question about Bombardier and the concerns that were articulated in the media previously.

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London): First of all, I would just echo what the Mayor said in terms of the quality of information and the direct interaction with the Crossrail team.  Now that we have a different Chair, Deputy Chair and Chief Executive in place, it is really marked.  There is quite a difference in the openness, continuing dialogue and information that I am getting and I know the Mayor is also getting, given those changes in personnel.

 

It is encouraging that, as with the revised plan on 14 January [2019], the Crossrail team started running a train in the tunnel under full speed under the signalling system both on the train and in the tunnel itself.  That is only one train but those tests have gone well.  There has since been a second train added to the testing regime.  The plan of the Crossrail team is to run four days of dynamic testing, as they call it, which is running trains under those full-speed real-signalling conditions within the tunnel, and then add incrementally new trains as the system is tested and any blips or challenges are ironed out.

 

I should say for the benefit of Assembly Members more broadly that there will inevitably be some software challenges.  There are with any new system when it emerges, but so far I know from having talked to Mark Wild, Chief Executive, in the last couple of days that he is quite pleased with the progress to date.  There has been nothing hugely material so far that has meant that his confidence level has slipped from where we are so far.  However, it is early days and I do want to emphasise that, but so far those trains are on tests going quite well.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  That is good to hear and, again, Bombardier is the same company that is being used on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, which you will know.  On the one hand, we are hearing good reports on the Elizabeth line, which we definitely welcome, but my concern - again, going back to the challenging finances - is that Bombardier does not seem to be able to get a very small section which they are responsible for.

 

You will be aware that I have written to you and I have written to the Mayor about this and I will continue to raise concerns.  I know that TfL Rail are looking to scrap their rolling stock of six trains.  In the interim in trying to help address this issue - because the ongoing current delays are not acceptable and TfL’s response to it to date has been inadequate - would you consider maybe not scrapping this stock and using it on the Barking to Gospel Oak line until a full service is then maintained on that line?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  That is a very reasonable question, Chairman, and if I may through you just address it?  By the way, I am conscious that this is not just a matter of concern for you but also I have had a letter just yesterday from the Chair of the Transport Committee as well, which of course I will be responding to equally.

 

Unfortunately, those old trains that you describe on the TfL rail services are not compatible with the

Barking-Gospel Oak line.  The reason for that is that they have no in-cab closed-circuit television cameras.  There are no systems, therefore, that will allow their safe operation on the Gospel Oak to Barking line, and so that is a challenge.

 

However, you will be aware that what we have been doing, working with Bombardier, is ensuring that three of the existing 378 trains that are running on other parts of the London Overground network are being converted and being adjusted so that they are able to operate on an interim basis on the Gospel Oak to Barking line.  These are higher capacity trains than the current old diesel trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking line and we have already had the first one operating in passenger service.  While that will not alleviate all the challenges in terms of the frequency of services on the Gospel Oak to Barking route, it will at least give some capacity relief to the passengers on that route, which is very important to me.

 

On the other side of it, I would just emphasise that both the Mayor and I continue to have, at the highest level, dialogue with Bombardier.  I do not mean just in their trains division; I mean with their Group Chairman in Montreal and the Group Chief Executive, whom I talked to only last week in detail about both the issues on software for the Gospel Oak to Barking 710 new trains as well as keeping their eye on the ball on the Crossrail trains as they come in.

 

It is also true that the Deputy Mayor [Deputy Mayor for Transport, Heidi Alexander] visited Willesden Depot recently and just had a look and a conversation with the Bombardier personnel on the ground to make sure that she was also satisfied they are doing everything they can.  We are continuing to have almost daily dialogue with Bombardier on this.  It is hugely important to me that we give confidence to the Barking to Gospel Oak passengers that there will be some clear timeline as to when they will get the new trains.

 

In the meantime, the Mayor has pushed Bombardier very hard to ensure that passengers are looked after and they have agreed, with the timing to be worked out, that they will subsidise some free travel arrangements for the passengers on that line of route, which I hope will at least give them some comfort that we absolutely have them at the centre of our thoughts in this whole process.

 

Florence Eshalomi AM:  The greatest comfort would be to have a fully restored line, but I will leave it there.