Will TfL finally come clean over Barclays’ Cycle Hire payments?

bike_hire_2_590Having previously been told it had no intention of revealing how much money Barclays has actually handed over for its sponsorship of the Cycle Hire scheme, I was surprised when TfL provided the same information in relation to Emirates and the Cable Car.

With a precedent now set, I filed yet another FOI request with TfL for the Barclays payments and was assured a response would be provided by December 14th.

That deadline has predictably now passed without TfL providing an answer.

TfL’s explanation for the delay is that they’ve “been consulting third parties affected by this request” – presumably Barclays or City Hall as they’re the only third parties affected.

Their FOI department says they don’t yet have a finalised response, when they do it’ll have to go through their signing off process. In my experience this can take up to a week.

It’s tempting to assume that the final, delayed response, will be merely a re-stating of TfL’s claimed commercial confidentialities. But perhaps in this season of goodwill I should hold out a small ray of hope that TfL will grab the opportunity to show it finally understands it answers to Londoners, not shareholders.

On the other hand, its deliberate blocking of the London Assembly’s statutory scrutiny role suggests opening the door to such thoughts could be the start of a dangerous descent into wholesale flights of fantasy.

I don’t understand TfL’s aversion to scrutiny, not least because its initial refusal to say how much Emirates had paid upfront turned out to be an own-goal.

While the sums involved continue to make a mockery of Boris’s original ‘no cost to the taxpayer’ promises, the Emirates figures show that Londoners got a pretty OK deal.

Of the promised £36m, Emirates paid £10,350,000 in the first year with the balance to be paid in equal annual instalments of £2,850,000. This means the airline essentially paid a ‘year one’ premium in line with the expanded coverage and exposure the cable car got this summer.

That seems pretty fair.

And while the Emirate’s sponsorship sum isn’t linked to inflation, another FOI response allows me to tell you that neither are the two biggest contracts associated with the cable car.

TfL’s contract with Mace Macro for “Operation, Maintenance, Sales, Passenger hosting, customer service, security and cleaning” is worth £10,352,834 between May 14th 2012 and June 27th 2015.

Meanwhile British Transport Police will receive £207,500 between 1st July 2012 and 21st March 2015 for policing the scheme.

Both of these contracts are fixed, with payments not linked to inflation, although the Mace contract allows TfL to “request additional services as necessary (generally seasonally) at additional cost.”

TfL could have pro-actively released all this information, ensuring there was no need for suspicions that taxpayers had got stiffed. But for some reason its press office preferred refusing to provide details and forcing the use of FOI requests.

Potential partners will probably want to factor in this behaviour – and the questions and suspicions it generates – when considering whether to back future TfL schemes.

Kudos to Emirates for agreeing to the release of their payment amounts, remember Boris himself initially said they wanted them kept secret, let’s hope the nonsensical secrecy surrounding the Barclays deal is also finally done away with in the coming days.


  1. John-Michael Sookias says

    I am becoming more and more fed up with TFL. Have you seen the new rise in the Braclay’s Cycle Hire prices? My £45 membership has shot up 100% to £90. Do consumers have any say in this? To increase by inflation is understandable but doubling it is crazy.