Mayor Boris Johnson has committed to publishing his sponsorship agreement with Emirates for the Thames Cable Car “in the next few weeks”.
The deal is one of two high profile sponsorship contracts Transport for London has signed with major brands.
In 2010 it signed a deal with Barclays bank to provide up to £50m towards the £225m cycle hire scheme and later signed a £36m deal with Emirates to sponsor the cable car which cost taxpayers at least £63m to construct.
London Assembly Members and media outlets, including MayorWatch, have frequently had requests for information about the contracts refused, with TfL officials claiming commercial confidentiality exemptions and obligations.
The TfL press office initially refused to reveal even how many instalments the Emirates money would be paid in, and the body only finally released the information following a successful Freedom of Information request.
However in recent months TfL has adopted a more open approach in relation to the Emirates deal.
In November it provided this site with detailed information on the schedule and size of payments due under the deal with Emirates. Similar information relating to the Barclays contract had previously been refused, with TfL claiming its release would prevent it from achieving best value for taxpayers in future.
The decision to release the cable car information while rejecting requests for the Barlcays figures had prompted speculation within City Hall that Emirates had seen how negative coverage of TfL’s refusals had tarnished the Barclays contract and hoped to avoid similar contamination by agreeing to a more open approach.
In April TfL’s Commercial Development Director Graeme Craig signalled a more open stance to future sponsorship deals in line with a London Assembly report ‘Whose brand is it anyway?’.
The report called for a “clearer, more consistent and transparent” approach to sponsorship and for TfL to make “greater transparency a requirement of the sponsorship tender process.”
In a letter to the Assemby’s Budget and Performance Committee, Mr Craig indicated that TfL would drop the routine use of confidentiality clauses, ensuring the public has more information about the contracts it enters into.
His letter states: “TfL supports the recommendations made by the Committee; indeed they align with TfL’s proposed plans. The one caveat is that TfL’s pre-existing sponsorship contracts contain confidentiality clauses that hinder our ability to retrospectively publish information that we would aim to share in all future contracts.”
Mr Craig subsequently told the committee that “discussions continue” with Barclays about placing more information in the public domain.
The Mayor gave his undertaking to publish the Emirates contract in response to a written question from London Assembly Member John Biggs.
In his response, the Mayor says: “The sponsorship agreement will be published on the TfL website in the next few weeks. The end of year accounts will detail the capital costs and revenue figures.
“The Emirates Airline is a great success story with passenger numbers tracking at over 10 per cent ahead of projections and customer satisfaction at 93 per cent. Operational costs of the scheme are being covered and local businesses are reporting an increase in footfall and income as a direct result of the scheme.”
The promised publication has been welcomed by Mr Biggs who said: “I’m glad to hear that Emirates have agreed to publish the sponsorship contract for the Cable Car. The Mayor originally said it wouldn’t cost the taxpayer any money, but we already know that it will cost us at least £24million.
“With the publication of the contract we should find out exactly how much Emirates are paying and whether the amount they pay is linked to how well used it is.”
Mr Biggs has challenged Barclays to follow the example set by Emirates and open its contract to public scrutiny, adding: “It’s a real shame that the Mayor and Barclays haven’t been as forthcoming with the details of the Cycle Hire scheme as Emirates have.”