Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [2]

Session date: 
February 7, 2019
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Organisation: 
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Question

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Given that the Mayor has a very specific manifesto commitment to openness and transparency in his administration, can you therefore explain to me why in your written and verbal reports to last week’s TfL Board there was no update on the delay to the opening of the Northern line extension or indeed on the severe problems with the new trains and likely reduction in service on the Gospel Oak to Barking line?

 

Answer

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [2]

Delivering the Mayor's manifesto [2]

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

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  There is no question in my mind that over the last three or four years the openness and transparency displayed by TfL has been second to none both within this country in terms of any organisation and probably around the world in terms of any transport authority.

 

It is clear on the Northern line extension that we announced at the end of December that the 2020 target opening date was under review.  That is two years, of course, out from the opening date and so that it is a fairly long ‑‑

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  My question is why were these current urgent issues mentioned in your written or your verbal report at the Board?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is fair to say that I have always been open, as indeed I have with you, about the Northern line issues.  The challenge of the Northern line goes back some time and we are now working very effectively in partnership with the Battersea Power Station developer.  I was down there just after Christmas [2018] ‑‑

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes, but the question is why did you not report this to the Board?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  We have reported it two years out to in public.  We have announced - we could not be more transparent than that - two years out that there are some reviews going on about the opening date.

 

That is for two fundamental reasons.  One is that the changes in the design of the oversight development at Battersea Power Station were adjusted.  That required in parallel some significant changes to our station construct and clearly ‑‑

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Look, really, with respect, Commissioner, you are not answering my question.  You are giving me the detail of that issue.

 

Let me give another example.  On 9 January [2019] Public Health England published a significant report suggesting some pollutants at Tube stations could be 30 times higher than beside busy roads, but again you chose not to even give this a passing mention in your report to the TfL Board.  Why was that?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  I know you were sitting in on the TfL Board.  The Board lasted somewhere in the order of five hours last week.  It was a long Board.  The Commissioner’s report is a summary of some of the issues that have happened in the previous time since the last Board.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Some of the issues?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It cannot, inevitably, cover every single issue.  There is a limit as to how many issues you can cover in the Board.  I have always sought to be very open and transparent about good news issues as well as less positive issues.  If you go back in the record of time since I have been giving these reports, they entirely do cover the whole range of things that TfL does.

 

Of course, the level of scrutiny and questioning that the TfL Board members give me is absolutely open to them asking me any question at all.  There is no planned discussion with the Mayor or with me before those Board meetings, which, as you know, are held in public under the full transparency and scrutiny that is appropriate, quite rightly so.  It is fair to say that the quality and calibre of the Board the Mayor has appointed is actually second to none that I have seen in the history of TfL.  It actually holds me and the Executive team very much to account for any issues within that.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Let me pick up another issue, then, Commissioner.  Crossrail is absolutely the top priority for TfL, yet incredibly the Chair and Chief Executive of Crossrail had to sit for three hours until their item came up.  Why was Crossrail effectively buried down the agenda when actually you would rather have that upfront being discussed with the Board members challenging?

 

Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It demonstrates the transparency and level of scrutiny that happens because, in the items before Crossrail, there was a huge amount of discussion and debate on all sorts of issues, which demonstrated the absolute openness and transparency that I and my executive team are subject to, quite rightly.  If we had brushed over the Commissioner’s report and brushed over very important issues like the annual safety report and very important issues like the Viewpoint staff survey issue, then, quite rightly, you would have come to me and said that there was an element of trying to hide away and bury some of the issues that were embedded in those reports.  I was very pleased to get the feedback from Board members and very pleased to get the discussion from Board members on those very important topics.  I make no apology for the safety report, incidentally, being quite far up the agenda.  I start every single meeting within my organisation with safety.  I certainly would not like to put that to the back of the agenda.

 

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I would like to ask Mr Mayor, given that you have this new Board that you are saying is dynamic, will you look to review it?  It should be assumed they have read their papers and they can then actually ask the challenging questions that you described.

 

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, I find it astonishing that the Assembly Member used up all her time with these questions and did not have enough time to ask the important questions that she should have asked and had the Mayor waiting for six or seven minutes while she asked these questions to the Commissioner.  I would have thought she would raise them far sooner with me and she has run out of time now.

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  It is not really a matter for me.  It is a matter for Assembly Members to conduct their own questions.