Attentive readers of the blog will remember how Ken Livingstone recently promised to “bring back” the zones 2-6 Travelcard – something which never went away. On Friday, Ken tried a new variant on this exciting techique, promising to create several things which already exist.
He unveiled an “eight-point plan” for “world-class rail services” promising that each London station would be given: at least four trains an hour; customer help points; real-time train information displays; and cycle parking to the standards of that available on the Underground.
There are 633 stations in Greater London (including the Croydon Tramlink, which replaced former railway lines.) Do you know how many of those stations already have at least four trains an hour? 579.
Most of the remaining 54 stations – just eight per cent of the total – either have three trains an hour, or are close enough to other stations to offer a combined service of more than four trains – Catford and Catford Bridge, Bowes Park and Bounds Green, Sudbury Hill Harrow and Sudbury Hill, Sanderstead and Purley Oaks, and so on. On frequencies, in other words, Ken is “offering” all but a handful of passengers something they already have.
Do you know how many of London’s 633 stations have real-time train information displays? According to the rail operators, they all do. How many have help points? They all have those, too. There may, perhaps, be a handful of exceptions, but no more.
How about cycle parking at rail stations? Well, Ken’s promise to bring this to the standard of the Underground would actually mean taking bike parking away. Nearly all rail stations have bike parking, but relatively few sub-surface Underground stations do, as you might imagine.
There is only one meaningful pledge in Ken’s eight-point plan – to staff all stations whenever trains are running. This would require perhaps a thousand extra staff at a cost of around £40 million a year. But it is yet another promise that Ken cannot explain how he is going to pay for, breezily claiming that “not a single fare will rise.”
Ken’s latest fantasy policy concludes with his claim that “under the Tory mayor, London’s long-suffering rail passengers have been ignored as fares have risen and services have declined.” Travelcard prices have indeed risen – by almost exactly as much as they went up under Ken – but most other fares from most London rail stations have in fact fallen under Boris, often dramatically.
In 2009, the single fare from a zone 3 station to London was £3.10. In 2012, it is £2.10, or £3 in the peak hours. From zone 2 stations it has fallen from £2.40 then to £1.80 now (£2.10 peak.) That is a reduction of up to a third – more in real terms – for millions of rail users and it is thanks to perhaps the most helpful improvement in years – the introduction, in January 2010, of the Oyster card, a project driven through and delivered by London’s wicked, commuter-ignoring “Tory mayor.”
Ken, of course, will claim that he “wanted” to introduce Oyster onto suburban rail. As with several other things he “wanted” to do (such as the bike hire scheme) that were actually achieved by Boris, I take the view that if he hadn’t got round to it in eight years he can’t have wanted it all that hard.