Boris Johnson’s candidacy for Mayor of London was today endorsed by Brian Cooke, the Chairman of transport watchdog London TravelWatch.
TravelWatch is funded by the London Assembly and is a politically independent body. Mr Cooke’s endorsement is an expression of his personal beliefs and is not made on behalf of the body.
In a statement issues by Mr Cooke through Johnson’s campaign he said “Ken has paid lip service to real consultation on a whole raft of issues and I don’t believe Boris will have the arrogance of the “Ken knows best” policy. I believe Boris and his team would really take on board consultation and the views of Londoners. An example was the introduction of free travel on buses for young people which many including London TravelWatch, predicted would cause major problems of anti social behaviour and not only did but still is”
In a strongly worded attack on Mayor Livingstone Mr Cooke accused him of playing “with both tube and bus fares for his own political aims.”
In February Mr Cooke withdrew from appearing at the launch of Mr Johnson’s transport manifesto after MayorWatch questioned his appearance at a party political event.
After being accused of ‘dirty tricks’ in suggesting a Johnson Mayoralty would threaten the future of the Freedom Pass Labour have sought to capitalise on Cooke’s description to extend the scheme’s operating hours – a pledge made by both candidates – as a “mad idea”.
Cooke’s statement, emailed by Mr Johnson’s campaign team, states: “As I will be 60 in about nine months time I can’t wait to get my freedom pass but allowing people to use it before 0900 will only make London’s very crowded transport system even worse.”
“Many people over 60 still work why should they be subsidised by all other fare payers and at the same time make transport system even more crowded and more uncomfortable for those that will be paying to subsidise the others. I think that plain daft. ”
“If current patronage on Tube, Rail and Tram in particular carries on growing at the current rate the planned expansion won’t cope anyway and to subsidise more people at the most crowded time seems totally crazy. This was another of Mr Livingstone’s proposals that he says he will introduce but has failed to have any consultation with those that matter the most, or their representatives – those who put money in the fare box!”
“I also do not believe any research has been undertaken to get passengers views on this. Currently the boroughs fund the freedom pass through local rates. Have they been consulted on this mad idea – not one jot! In fact frankly I doubt that Mr Livingstone can actually deliver this as it will require agreement from the privatised train companies which in my view is unlikely to be forthcoming – why would they want their trains to have even more sardines in the can”
Dismissing Cooke as someone “appointed by the London Assembly which has a clear majority of Ken Livingstone’s opponents” Labour’s Murad Qureshi said: “He vigorously opposed the Mayor’s policy providing free bus travel for children even though this has the support of 80 per cent of Londoners and even today on Boris Johnson’s website he opposed extending the Freedom Pass to 24 hours a day.”