Boris Johnson's £913m Vision for Cycling reportedly under threat as TfL faces spending cuts

Treasury determined to cut central funding for London's transport budget in next month's Comprehensive Spending Review, say reports

by Simon_MacMichael   May 15, 2013  

TfL Cycle Boulevard on Embankment

Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s ‘Vision for Cycling’ for the capital, including a major segregated cycle route running from east to west through the heart of the city and improved safety features at junctions, is reportedly at risk of being dramatically scaled back due to potential cuts in government funding for Transport for London (TfL) under next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review, published on 26 June.

London’s plans, which equate to a per capita spend of £12.50 a year, were described in the Get Britain Cycling report from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) as potentially “transformational” and held up as something other local authorities could seek to emulate.

However, while the headline figure of £913 million that is planned to be spent on cycling in the city over the next decade sounds impressive – often, it’s rounded up to a soundbite-friendly £1 billion – it’s half of what opposition politicians such as Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee would like to see spent.

The funding faces a threat from two directions, however; the first comes from HM Treasury, which needs to approve £640 million of it, more than two thirds of the total. The other comes from TfL itself, which may be forced to reassess its own budget should rumoured cuts to its funding from central government happen.

According to reports in newspapers including the London Evening Standard, with the Comprehensive Spending Review being finalised, battle lines are being drawn between TfL and the Treasury, which reportedly believes that London receives too much central government cash for transport projects.

With TfL said to be facing cuts to its government funding of up to 30 per cent, it appears that the agency will have to juggle its budget, and it is reportedly determined to maintain spend in areas such as upgrades to the London Underground network, which potentially could take money away from areas such as cycling.

Also likely to suffer as a result of austerity measures at TfL are other areas of its budget including £300 million earmarked for transport schemes in deprived areas, bus fare concessions available to youngsters and the jobless, and planned spending of £1.8 billion on capital projects.

Public spending on transport in London dwarfs that elsewhere in Britain - £774 per capita in 2010/11 compared to £337 in the north west of England, ranked in second place.

But TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy insists that there is a sound economic case for it, and that the spend benefits the UK as a whole; he says 40 per cent of money spent in TfL’s supply chain destined for British companies outside the capital, helping to support up to 40,000 jobs.

Mr Johnson, who in recent days visited a factory in Northern Ireland where the chassis for 600 new buses destined for London is being built under a contract worth £212 million, has said that TfL, which he chairs, is trying to cut costs where possible without undermining the essential services it provides.

He told the Standard: “To remain a leading world city we have a programme of shovel ready projects that we believe would deliver major improvements to our roads for motorists, cyclists and bus passengers, and would continue vital improvements to the Tube.

“It would be lunacy to throttle back on all that productive activity now, just when the country needs it most.”

However, Ms Pidegon believes that Mr Johnson – and by extension, TfL and London – are set to pay the price for profligate spending in the past in certain areas connected with transport.

She told the Standard: “I support the Mayor fighting London’s corner for continued Treasury investment in London’s transport network, however he runs the risk of undermining his case with the Treasury by his long-standing record of wasting money, especially the way he has poured millions of pounds into vanity projects, such as the incredibly expensive new bus for London or the Thames cable car.”

The latter – officially, the Emirates Air Line – spans the Thames between the Royal Victoria Dock and North Greenwich and cost an estimated £60 million. Opening shortly before the Olympics, traffic has continued to decline from an early peak, and its 36 gondolas are now said to be running at just 10 per cent of capacity.

6 user comments

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I wonder whether the cycle design plans so publicly announced was a bit of electoral stunt...as cuts were known to be coming through and such cuts were hardly likely to tackle the underground. However the Mayor can grandstand and say marvellous things about bicycles / sustainable transport all without having to pay for them...and even better not take the blame as he can cast that on his old school chums George and Dave. Just a thought...

onthebummel48's picture

posted by onthebummel48 [12 posts]
15th May 2013 - 9:37

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onthebummel48 wrote:
I wonder whether the cycle design plans so publicly announced was a bit of electoral stunt...as cuts were known to be coming through and such cuts were hardly likely to tackle the underground. However the Mayor can grandstand and say marvellous things about bicycles / sustainable transport all without having to pay for them...and even better not take the blame as he can cast that on his old school chums George and Dave. Just a thought...

+1

I think you may be bang on the money there!

Racer 074 for the 2014 Transcontinental Race; 2,000 miles from London to Istanbul.

http://themartincox.co.uk/2014/03/racer-074-transcontinental-race-2014/

posted by themartincox [366 posts]
15th May 2013 - 9:47

3 Likes

riding the cable car with a bike for £2.50 on your own is a joy, especially as a booked car for yourself is meant to cost £86. The Spending Review is cutting deep into government, I hope Boris fights the corner for cycling in London

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

zzgavin's picture

posted by zzgavin [208 posts]
15th May 2013 - 10:29

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I said at the time this was announced this was Boris promising stuff he can't possibly deliver to shut the cycling lobby up for a while....

Why anyone's surprised I don't know.

posted by VeloPeo [220 posts]
15th May 2013 - 15:53

5 Likes

I think the country should be ascertaining why extremely simple and trivial infrastructure project such as this cost so much. It's insane that a few miles of new kerbing, road painting and a few new and reprogrammed traffic lights costs that. Someone's making a fortune from this.
First saving - bike lanes, especially segregated ones, don't have to be painted blue!

posted by racyrich [136 posts]
16th May 2013 - 10:16

3 Likes

Interestingly I read once that nobody actually knows how much road improvements really cost. The major civil engineering companies are able to pluck a figure out of thin air then build the business case from that number.

posted by shockleader [20 posts]
17th May 2013 - 21:22

1 Like