Ken Livingstone’s favourite jibe at his successor’s expense used to be that Boris would spend his entire time at City Hall opening things he’d initiated but leave the next Mayor with nothing on the drawing board.
Perhaps it’s that taunt which has led Boris to spend much of 2014 announcing grand and expensive plans which have no chance of seeing the light before he quits City Hall in 2016?
Off the top of my head this year he’s announced consultations on, or committed funds to, the following:
£500m of new buses, new bus lanes and bus only turns by 2020/2021
The ‘New Tube for London’ train which is currently so ill-defined that TfL’s cost estimates range from £1bn to 2.5bn
A new London Overground station at Old Oak in 2026
Extending the Bakerloo Line – a £2 to 3bn project which, on the current time table, won’t open until 2030 when his successor’s successor is in office.
A new £750m river crossing at Silvertown which won’t open until at least “2021/2022”
These are big ticket items that Boris is getting publicity from without having to deliver the funding – exactly what he criticised Livingstone for when he summoned the media to a press conference at London Underground HQ in October 2008 to announce the scrapping of all unfinanced Ken-era projects.
At the time he spoke of Londoners being “conned” by their Mayor.
Today as he seeks to tie the hands of his successor – or in the case of the Bakerloo Line his successor’s successor – he speaks about the need for long term planning.
A shame then that a Mayor with such a grand, long term vision for London couldn’t be bothered to stick around and deliver it and is instead happy to bask in the spotlight of good PR while leaving the heavy lifting to others.
And an even greater shame that Boris’s ‘long grass’ approach extends to two important schemes which could’ve helped improve the lives and safety of Londoners.
His ‘Safer Streets for London’ strategy sets a laudable target of cutting death and serious injuries on the capital’s streets by 40 per cent, but not until 2020.
And it’ll be up to the next Mayor to oversee introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, currently due to come into operation in 2020 when they’ll be facing re-election.
Both of these deserved to be pushed through with more urgency than Boris has shown and would have ensured the legacy he seems to be hoping to instead achieve with a growing pile of blueprints and architects impressions.