Posts Tagged ‘ken livingstone’
It’s been the most dismal, depressing election campaign I can remember. If we’re voting, we’re voting for one man merely to stop the other bloke getting in. Something’s wrong with that.
For a campaign full of lies and smears, though, one of the final porkies took place above the skies of Greenwich. Wednesday’s Evening Standard devoted its page three to a big picture of the Greenwich cable car in operation, with words by City Hall reporter Peter Dominiczack, who’s seemingly spent the past few months simply taking dictation from the mayor’s team.
High above the Thames, London’s first cable car has its maiden flight.
Three gondolas were suspended in mid-air today after moving off just before 10am — the first test of the city’s newest river crossing.
The cars did not appear to be carrying any passengers, though they could transport athletes at the Olympics if they are completed in time and will eventually carry up to 10 people per trip.
Onlookers at North Greenwich, on the south side of the cable car run, were impressed by the project, despite its £60 million price tag, and said they hoped it would bring more people to the area.
Unfortunately for the Boris campaign rag, the gondolas have been under test for 10 days or so, as readers of greenwich.co.uk will know.
“The Emirates Airline cable car took a step closer to completion yesterday as moving cable car gondolas were sighted for the first time.”
All of which proves which news outfit you can trust in future, and which is only good for soaking up the cat litter. But what if Boris Johnson had done something more substantial with our local transport? How would we be feeling about him today? Here’s a blog post I could have written, if only he’d cared…
“Well if I can’t take London back to Victorian forms of transport, then what is the point of having a Conservative mayor?,” puffed Boris Johnson as he coasted over the Blackwall Tunnel approach and down the slope on his blue bicycle.
Ten minutes earlier, the mayor had cut the ribbon on something he could call his own. The New Tower Bridge, some critics were calling it. Tory-leaning bloggers were calling it the Boris Bridge. And that was the name that stuck.
But the sleek blue Diamond Jubilee Bridge, open only to pedestrians and cyclists, was the gamble upon which Boris Johnson was trying to win over the capital for a second term.
The project had its critics. Labour MPs called it a “vanity project”. The Evening Standard said “it is hard to see why the Mayor persists with this project when the hard-pressed motorists of Chelsea still have to pay an outrageous congestion charge,” referring to his controversial U-turn in 2011 on the charge’s western extension.
The £300m Diamond Jubilee Bridge, from the Isle of Dogs to North Greenwich, ended up having to be bailed out by Chancellor George Osborne when promised sponsorship money didn’t turn up. Could it be finished before campaigning begun in the mayoral election? Safety engineers had only cleared it the previous week, but as a the bridge’s arms lifted for a cruise liner to pass through with a lengthy toot of its horn, it was clear that this would be as important for the area as the Jubilee Line was thirteen years beforehand.
From a spiral ramp at Marsh Wall on the Isle of Dogs, the bridge crossed the Thames and the Blackwall Tunnel entrances, allowing passengers to walk or ride off in front of the O2 and the London Soccerdome.
Furthermore, the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme went live on the Greenwich Peninsula that morning, allowing residents in the new homes there to cycle to work instead of taking the Tube. A further extension into Greenwich itself, through Deptford and up into the Rotherhithe would go live after the Olympics.
When the mayor was brought over to the press by his ever-attentive PR handlers, he was in ebullient mood.
“These two parts of our great city are too important to be separated,” he said, fixing journalists in the eye one by one.
“Now, like Bonnie and Clyde or Antony and Cleopatra, they are joined together by this great monument to British engineering.
“The great joy of being a Londoner is that there is so much of this great city to explore,” he added, gesturing at the under-developed peninsula around him. “Now, thanks to this bridge, soon there will be so much more to explore here.”
But didn’t people want a road crossing, asked a reporter from a suburban freesheet.
“I think these people here are happy with this new bridge,” Boris said, gesturing to a crowd who obligingly cheered. Some carried blue balloons and leaflets, but there were also a large number of curious locals too.
He continued, fixing the reporter in the eye again.
“The real issue is that you’ll never get this area developed if it has another main road running through it. But if you make this an attractive place to walk around, have your lunch in, walk the dog in, then we’ll bring investment and prosperity to the Greenwich Peninsula.
“Now look, if we can build a matching bridge from Canary Wharf to Rotherhithe, then we’re linking up communities and bringing together more parts of this great city.
“This is why I can’t afford a cut in bus fares, I need to invest,” he added, itching to get back on the election trail.
The mayor’s Conservative colleagues weren’t wasting any time, handing out leaflets to cycle hire users at the new cycle stations in the Millennium Village and retail park. Not only were they confident of victory across London, but local activists say there are signs that the party could even land a councillor in the area for the first time in decades.
Indeed, the ‘Boris effect’ had reverberated across the borough of Greenwich as the local Labour party was forced to up its game. Concerned councillors held their first public meetings in years as they feared political rivals muscling in on their patch – and they didn’t like what they heard.
“He’s proved that he isn’t all about appealling to the outer suburbs. He could have taken the lazy option and wanted to build a third Blackwall Tunnel, and spent all his time pandering to people in Bexley, but he’s challenged us on our own doorstep instead,” one political rival said. “Ken Livingstone’s had to make more than a token appearance in Woolwich this time around.”
Local Conservatives were thrilled. “Now we can campaign across the borough, instead of hiding out in Eltham or at Abbey Wood station and leafleting people who live in Bexley, which is what we normally do,” one said.
“We can tell people that Boris hasn’t spent the past four years sucking up to the suburbs and the City – if he’d done that, it would have been a waste of four years, after all.”
After conquering Greenwich with his new bridge, Boris had one more revelation – that he’d been approached by the owners of the London Eye, who wanted to build a cable car between the O2 and the Royal Docks.
“We’ll have to see about that one,” he told reporters. “That’s for fun – nobody but a fool would take a cable car seriously,” he smiled, before turning and riding back to the Isle of Dogs, a crowd of cyclists following.
There’s information on the mayoral candidates and interviews with Greenwich & Lewisham’s London Assembly candidates at greenwich.co.uk. There’s more on the poll, and where to vote, at London Elects. Polling stations close at 10pm.
Over on guardian.co.uk, you can find me and other London scribes discussing the effects Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone have had on their areas.
My bit is illustrated by a picture of Charlton’s glitzy Victoria Way, but really it’s on about the scene if you walk down to the bottom of the road. The land in the picture above was originally earmarked for the Ken-era Greenwich Waterfront Transit scheme, canned by Boris a few years back. The GWT had been watered down from a tram to a bus by the time it was scrapped (and, indeed, would have run via Bugsbys Way instead of the planned dedicated road through the retail parks). But it was still a commitment to improving transport in the area, and it’s something that should have been up and running by now.
Instead, we got the cable car, which is very nice, but largely useless as a form of public transport. From the hill on Victoria Way, you get a lovely view of both the GWT wasteland (now due to be turned into a Travelodge) and the cable car – a quick summary of the past decade of London transport politics all in one glance.
With the campaign in full flow, you probably won’t find much mayoral stuff here unless it directly relates to south-east London, but I’ll be contributing to Snipe’s The Scoop.
Oh, and that bent-up “Woolwich Road SE7″ street sign in the photo? It’s been left like that by Greenwich Council – sorry, Royal Greenwich – for 10 years after a car smashed into it, despite complaints from local residents who want to see it removed or replaced. Despite the splashing out on new signs in more high-profile areas, it shows just how Greenwich is happy to leave much of its patch looking anything but regal.
London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone says he wants to see south east London’s rail network run by Transport for London – and says he’d agreed a deal to do just that before he was voted out of office in 2008.
Speaking to local residents and activists in Deptford last night, he said all London’s mainline rail services should be run along the lines of London Overground, the network he created in 2007 to take over run-down services in north London.
At present, Southeastern, along with other privately-run services, is free to set fares, acquire trains and decides on the level of service it wants to provide.
But under the model used for London Overground, TfL decides which services, trains and fares to offer – and keeps 90% of the revenue, leaving operator LOROL with the rest. Trains, stations and track have been upgraded, and the service linked with the old East London Tube line – and punctuality has shot up, along with passenger numbers.
Mr Livingstone told the audience:
If people can remember how bad the North London Line was – it was absolutely the worst railway line. We took it over, merged it with the East London Line, and it’s now Britain’s best railway. That cost one and a quarter billion pounds. It’s a lot of money, but it’s peanuts in terms of most major public investment projects.
If we ran all overland trains in London on that basis – if we can run a service that’s as reliable on our overground, why can’t South East Trains? [sic] They don’t give a damn. They’ve got a monopoly, they run a minimum service at the maximum fare.
One of the tragedies about my losing last time was that the Labour government had agreed to start transferring control of London’s overland train franchising to the mayor. They passed a law that allowed two people from outside London to on the TfL board to oversee it, and I was in negotiations with [transport secretary] Ruth Kelly to just take them over and run them like we do the Overground. And [Boris] Johnson just dropped all of that.
That’s something I want to come back to. It’s a power I want from the government, to become the franchising authority and set the same standard for south east trains as you’d expect from the London Overground. There’s absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be done.
With both the main challengers for next May’s election backing TfL taking over the rest of the capital’s mainline trains, and with TfL having commissioned a report into how this might work, it looks as if time could well be running out for the likes of Southeastern, whose franchise expires in March 2014.
It’s fair to say Southeastern won’t be missed, after recent fiascos with snow, the current saga of trains being mysteriously short of coaches and a continuing inability to communicate with passengers. Furthermore, recently-submitted planning documents show the company still plans to cut train services at many Greenwich line stations during next summer’s Olympics.
While some aspects of Southeastern’s service could be fixed relatively easily – such as staffing and customer service – it’s not clear where the sums needed to transform the train service would come from. On the down side, it could see the withdrawal of rail-only tickets in favour of travelcards and the more expensive, but more flexible fares that Tube and DLR users pay. But would this be a small price to pay for a much-improved service?
One thing is for sure – the political will is there, from both Ken and Boris. If you’re a hacked-off Southeastern commuter, it’s worth making sure both men – and their parties, the ones that created this mess in the first place – are well aware you want to see change.
With the coalition government considering longer train franchises for the rest of the country, we in south-east London might not get this chance again for many years.
8pm update: If you use Lewisham station, and find the locked exit on platform 4 (the one towards Blackheath) as annoying as I do, this petition may be right up your street…
To Deptford last night, where mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone held a question and answer session with locals and activists at the Lady Margaret Hall. He spoke a little on local trains, which I’ll post about later, but he said a few interesting things about the cable car under construction on the Greenwich Peninsula.
We know past schemes for cable cars there have been considered and dropped over the years, including one to East India DLR station for the millennium, and another plan for one to Canary Wharf. But the former mayor said he and O2 arena boss Philip Anschutz considered the same proposal as is now under construction by the Thames – and it was rejected because it was financially unviable.
Using a question about the cable car to close the session, he told his audience:
We looked at a cable car when Philip Anschutz bought the O2 – [it was] one of the things we looked at, as well as running that fleet of boats he’s got. It was exactly the same scheme, running from the O2 to the ExCeL centre. Philip Anschutz is one of the richest men in the world – but we decided the money just didn’t stack up. It’s a nice tourist attraction, but it’s not mass transit, and it’s a luxury you couldn’t afford.
Boris has this idea it’ll be a triumph, it’ll be open in time for the Olympics – at the moment it’s clearly not going to be open for the Olympics, and it’s now the most expensive cable car in human history.
We’ll have to finish it – but get a mayor who actually pays attention to the bottom line and the detail, because these things go wrong if you just do a grand gesture and not the day job.
While TfL chiefs have been at pains to dampen down the suggestion that the service will be open by the Olympics, the project has been criticised for its cost, currently estimated at £60m, which Boris Johnson is trying to recoup through commercial sponsorship and an application for European funds. Any money he doesn’t get back, though, comes out of TfL’s rail budget – and this is from something which originally was meant to be entirely privately funded.
Folly or not, it’s worth mentioning again that you can take a closer look at the works that are going on at an open morning at the site of what will be “Emirates Greenwich Peninsula” station, on Saturday 26 November from 10am-1pm.
Turns out Ken Livingstone was in Greenwich yesterday, visiting Ravensbourne college as part of his “Tell Ken” campaign visits to every London borough.
He was also due to meet residents in Woolwich town centre, was snapped outside Poundland in Eltham before holding a meeting in there last night. Wish I’d known now, I’d have made the journey to SE9 to see that.
The “once and future mayor” was due to go out campaigning with Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts – considering relations between the two are widely thought to be pretty frosty, that would have been good value too.
But did you know about his visit? I had no idea, but then I’ve been away. Did you meet Ken? If you did, what did you tell him – and what did the mayoral candidate tell you?
Or if, like me, you knew nothing of his trip, what would you have told him?
A little question came to mind when I took a ride on the Tube at the weekend…
It was bloody stupid for Ken Livingstone to get involved with Press TV, a channel backed by the Iranian government. Taking money from stone-throwing bigots isn’t wise when you’re seeking election to the London mayoralty. And as Adam Bienkov points out, it involves associating yourself with some dodgy characters, like cat-chops above, and a disreputable figure associated with SE London – that’s right, disgraced ex-Old Bexley and Sidcup MP Derek Conway.
So why is Boris Johnson taking their money too, in the form of ads on the London Underground network? We know he’s hardly choosy about who TfL gets its money from, but it seems odd to have your campaign team claim an association with Press TV is “embarrassing”, while taking advertising money from them. It may show an admirable commitment to free speech, granted, but I can’t help thinking it’s a bit inconsistent.
So Boris Johnson has announced most of next year’s Transport for London fares, set against the background of government cuts. No news yet on what the privatised rail companies, including Southeastern, are planning, but what’s coming out of TfL isn’t good.
Firstly, bus fares are up 10p with Oyster – putting them up to £1.30. This means bus fares have risen by 44% since Boris took charge in 2008 – but it’s much less than the 20% rise we suffered last year, and the daily Oyster cap only goes up by 10p, to £4. More a poke in the ribs than the knee in the guts issued 12 months ago.
As ever, the devil’s in the detail – and what a day to bury bad news on. Deep in the press release are huge rises in one day travelcards – meaning occasional commuters and leisure users are the latest ones to be screwed by Boris’s fare rises. In the “notes to editors” – that spot which gets ignored by those editors – is the following passage…
London Travelcard season ticket prices will generally increase by around RPI plus two per cent.
The One Day Travelcard range will be simplified and slow selling tickets withdrawn.
The new range will comprise all-day and off-peak tickets valid in Zones 1-2, 1-4 and 1-6.
One Day pay as you go caps will mirror the new ticket range and prices.
Off-peak One Day Travelcard prices increase by up to £1, for example a Zone 1-2 off-peak Travelcard will increase from £5.60 to £6.60.
If you ever get a zones 1-2 off peak one day travelcard, that’s a 17.8% rise straight off. The zone 1-4 one-day travelcard is also up by £1, to £7.30 (a 15.8% rise). The zones 1-6 ticket is up by 50p to £8 (up 6.66%). These rates also apply to Oyster fare caps.
Missing from the new range of travelcards are peak travelcards for zones 1-3 and zones 1-5 – you’re hit with a big rise. If you buy a peak travelcard from a zone 3 station like Charlton, you pay £8.60 today – under the new plan, you’d be forced to buy a zone 1-4 ticket, which will cost £10 (a 16.2% rise). If you buy a peak travelcard from a zone 5 station like Bexleyheath, your fare leaps from £12.60 to £15 (a 19% rise). These rises, which will affect people who commute only a few days each week, also affect Oyster pay-as-you-go caps, which follow the same patterns.
Most sneaky of all, though, is the disappearance of the zone 2-6 off-peak one day travelcard – the freedom of everything so long as you don’t stray into central London by rail, Tube or DLR. It’s only £5.10 – but it makes trips around rather than into London good value. It’s also, by definition, a ticket used by many in outer London – that’s right, the suburban voters that obediently lined up and voted for Boris in 2008.
According to the fares list, finally revealed by TfL on Thursday, a traveller from a zone 5 station like Bexleyheath will be forced to buy a zone 1-6 ticket – which rises to £8 from January, a 56.8% rise. Anyone who uses the peak hours version of this ticket from a zone 5 station will see their fare rocket from £9 to £15 (60% increase).
Again, all this also applies to the cap on Oyster cards.
It’s pretty much clear that as far as public transport users in outer London go, they can take a running jump as far as Boris Johnson’s concerned. After all, someone has to pay for the scrapping of the congestion charge in Chelsea, and train travellers in Crayford and Sidcup look like being the ones who are doing it. Again.
But where is Boris’s challenger, Ken Livingstone, to fight for outer Londoners? He seems more interested in getting involved in the venal, crazy internal politics of Tower Hamlets Labour Party than wooing voters who deserted him in the suburbs. It’s about time Ken realised that the people of Welling are as important as the people of Whitechapel – maybe he can reflect on that today while he’s at a travel convention in, er, Malta.
Still, never mind – Boris wants to make 2011 the year of walking…
When running for mayor on a platform that includes listening to the concerns of outer London, it helps if you can get the place names right. Unfortunately, Ken Livingstone botched it up this morning in Manchester, managing to mangle the pronunciation of “Eltham” (and west London’s “Feltham“) in front of the watching delegates. Both places, of course, take a hard “t” instead of a “th” sound. Watch it here on the BBC’s iPlayer.
Mind you, Boris Johnson isn’t that familiar with south London either – declaring yesterday that areas south of the river but off the Tube were too “isolated” to be included in his cycle hire scheme – and cutting funds to the bus network that we have to live with because we don’t have those Tubes.
Time to rally to the Free South London cause, perhaps…
London’s mayoral election is nearly two years away, but already Labour’s hopefuls have been parading their wares hoping to catch the eye of party members in the capital. Oona King’s been making a great deal of the fact that she may have been a regular at the Ministry of Sound once upon a time, trying to cultivate some kind of trendy auntie image to contrast herself with Ken Livingstone. He’s now 65, but still eager to throw himself back into the role he was thrown out of two years ago,
But a piece by Ken for MayorWatch clearly shows his intention to seize the capital’s dancefloors from Oona – stating that he wants to champion London’s live music scene if he gets a third term in the top job.
Unfortunately, Ken’s wise words here aren’t matched by his deeds in office before 2008. I was no fan of the Astoria – but its loss last year means there is no large-size music venue in central London.
Where the Astoria once stood is now a huge building site for Ken’s cherished Crossrail scheme, and a revamp of Tottenham Court Road station. Obviously Crossrail is a scheme of huge importance, but I can’t help thinking that a mayor who was committed to the music industry would have helped it relocate elsewhere in the West End. After all, we’re at the point in the recession where Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh are bound to start grumbling about empty theatres – couldn’t they have been persuaded to lend us one of them for a new Astoria?
A new venue is promised on the Astoria site once Crossrail is finished – but that’s at least seven years and a whole generation of bands away.
Ken also mentions the long-running threat to Camden’s Electric Ballroom – but that was down to the mayor himself, whose Transport for London wanted the site to give Camden Town station a long-overdue revamp. Camden Council threw out the scheme in 2003.
Also under Ken’s watch, the Met Police began the process which led to the introduction of the hated Form 696, which asked venue owners to specify the type of music that would be played at a live event and if any particular racial group was likely to show up.
So Ken’s mayoralty wasn’t one which actively helped create the conditions in which live music can flourish. His words are also far too central London-focused – it would be good if he took action to promote the live scene in the suburbs. Outside zones 1 and 2, the only area of London with a music scene of any note these days is Kingston-upon-Thames.
But his most eye-catching idea is to create a London version of South By South West – the acclaimed industry get-together in Austin, Texas. Actually, SXSW is about a lot more than music, but would a London version – Kenstock? – go down so well?
The big problem any London version of SXSW faces is another English city got there first. Manchester’s In The City is a series of gigs and industry seminars. It’s been running since 1992 and has become a well-established date in the British music calendar.
It was the brainchild of the late, great impresario Tony Wilson – whose Factory Records brought the world Joy Division and the Happy Mondays, and who somehow managed to balance this career with appearing on TV as a regional news frontman. Like Ken is for London, he was a passionate advocate for his city, never failing to remind Mancunians that they lived in the finest city on earth – an attitude that’s all too rare among London figures.
Would the British music industry support two similar events? I’m not sure it would. And is it really the mayor’s job to directly intervene in a music industry that’s perfectly capable of coming up with the goods itself? All a mayor can really do is create the conditions for live music to flourish – and there wasn’t much of that happening in his first two terms.
Then again, protecting music venues and allowing the mayor to take over licensing would be useful things, and it’s good to see Ken bring these particular ideas up. But these are the thing’s he’s good at – legislating, planning, taking an overall view. As far as planning festivals goes, perhaps Ken would be wiser to leave it to the people who know best – the musicians.