Boris suddenly appeared in Erbil, Kurdistan last week, accompanied by the Sun, who were curiously exempt from what appeared to be a considerable effort to keep things secret.  Of course, once he was there the publicity flowed, giving the impression that instead of a two-bit failed leader of a city who’s not really doing his job any more here was a Great Statesman like, well, Winston Churchill.  I’m not sure how many were fooled by this:


At the end of the visit on the 24th came one fulsome tweet from the KRG’s foreign minister which included a picture of, presumably, the aircraft Boris was boarding to get home again:


Let’s do an Eliot Higgins job on this, shall we?

  • Rear mounted engines, T-tail
  •  Squarish doors and windows
  • 13 windows behind the door on the port side
  • Blue/gold/blue stripes below the window line, white above
  • Some kind of vertical marking on the tail on probably a white background
  • Likely a large business jet

The identification was fairly easy after that – that’s a very long aircraft, so searching Google Images for business jet pictures quickly finds that the one that fits best is the Bombardier Global Express.

Next, it must presumably fly out of UK airports quite often, so let’s search again for Global Express pictures at Farnborough and try and match the livery. Bingo, there’s a good match with this one pictured at Farnborough just under a month ago:


This is the only Global Express XRS aircraft in the fleet of a private jet rental outfit called GainJet who offer:

The luxurious interior has been specifically tailored to ensure the highest level of passengers’ comfort, safety, and convenience. The spacious cabin accommodates 14 passengers, while the onboard entertainment system and business tools ensure that all our passengers have everything they need to enjoy their flight.

Erbil Airport, while not far from Mosul where things are mostly terrible, is not particularly a warzone – Top Gear’s Middle East Special of 2011 started there, for instance.  This means there are scheduled flights there which will be a damn sight cheaper than hiring a large top of the range business jet.  There aren’t any from the UK, however, but another European country is already making links in the area – Iraqi Airways fly to Dusseldorf and Berlin, Lufthansa fly to Frankfurt and Germania serve Dusseldorf and Munich.  Alternatively, Austrian fly from Vienna every day except Saturday and there are lots of ways to get from Erbil to Istanbul.  In short: yes, there are cheaper ways to get there, you just have to change planes in the Axis countries.  Churchill wouldn’t approve.  Mind you, his view of the Kurds aligned rather embarrassingly with that of the late President Saddam Hussein, so best not to go there, really.

So, was SX-GJN at Farnborough over the last week?  The January 2015 Farnborough Movements page shows four sightings:

  • 20/01/2015 16:34	SX-GJN	Bombardier BD700 Global Express XRS		Gainjet Aviation
  • 21/01/2015 21:19	SX-GJN	Bombardier BD700 Global Express XRS	GNJ77	Gainjet Aviation
  • 23/01/2015 21:16 SX-GJN Bombardier BD700 Global Express XRS GNJ77 Gainjet Aviation
  • 24/01/2015 08:09	SX-GJN	Bombardier BD700 Global Express XRS	GNJ77	Gainjet Aviation

What this doesn’t show is direction, of course.  The first tweet I can find coupling Boris and Arbil/Erbil is this from 11:20am GMT on 21/1 and he was reported to be about early on the 22/1 as well.  In fact, that 21/1 tweet from a local account might well have jumped the gun, as the UK press didn’t know until midday on the 22nd (the Standard in particular were slow off the mark, suggesting that this time it wasn’t paid for by the Lebedevs and even the Sun’s Tom Neutron Dumm didn’t spill the beans until 1:17pm even though the paper rather conveniently had someone embedded with him).  It wouldn’t be surprising if there was an embargo in force, of course.

The jet photograph was tweeted at 9:47pm on the 24th, but that doesn’t mean it was taken then as none of the others in the same tweet can have been.  It’s not impossible, therefore, that the photo is of a late evening arrival rather than departure.

FR24 does not explicitly show SX-GJN, but it does show Global Express aircraft as type GLEX.  Replaying for 20/1 around 4pm shows two aircraft landing, including one arriving around 16:38 from Zurich.  Replaying for Wednesday 21/1 around 9pm shows a departure around 9:24pm routing rather strangely straight across central London and then at high altitude over Germany, Prague, Budapest and the Balkans, fading out over the Turkish coast on a direct course for Arbil well past 1am on the 22nd:


Replaying for Friday 23/1 at 21:00 shows a near-identical flight back from high altitude Turkish airspace and again across London to Farnborough, landing around 21:15:

23-1-FR24-Flightpath The disappearance over Turkey may be for security reasons – note the other GLEX nearby in both images was picked up fine there.

So, summing up the evidence:

  • Boris travelled on a privately hired Bombardier BD700 Global Express XRS jet SX-GJN operated by GainJet in at least one direction, as shown on the tarmac at Erbil Airport at night
  • This jet (SX-GJN) was seen arriving at Farnborough on Tuesday 20th
  • It was then seen departing around 9:24pm on Wednesday 21st and routed over Europe towards Kurdistan before disappearing from FR24 coverage north of Ankara at around 1am on Thursday 22nd
  • The UK press officially revealed Boris was in Erbil at around midday on Thursday 22nd, but some local Twitter accounts had already announced it
  • SX-GJN was seen at Farnborough again at around 21:19 on Friday 23rd
  • FR24 shows the only Global Express arriving at Farnborough around then had retraced almost the exact route the flight on the 21st took out

PUNCHLINE: SX-GJN is registered in Greece, as GainJet are a Greek operation.  The President, however, is Captain Ramsey Shaban, formerly vice-president and Chief Pilot of…Iraqi Airways (and I’d assume it’s actually more like ‘Ramzi’ when he’s not talking to Westerners).  GainJet itself is Kuwaiti owned, however. Boris just loves the heady combination of oil, aviation and Arabs, it seems.


Hilton Holloway, 2011:

That it will be built in a part of the UK that needs more private sector investment is a further bonus. And it’s likely that these buses will be exported worldwide

Owen Paterson, 2011:

…described the bus as “a fantastic long-term export opportunity” and said he expected versions of it to eventually be running on the streets of Las Vegas and Hong Kong as well as in London.

Boris, 2013:

It is the embodiment of the point I often make, that investment in London boosts the rest of the UK economy, directly and indirectly. We have stimulated the very best of British technology, creating jobs in this country, and yes, we are now looking to potential export markets”.

Boris, 2013:

“One of the advantages of the new bus is that it is the cleanest, greenest bus in the world. It would be the absolute perfect thing not just for Hong Kong but also for Beijing.”

TfL, 2014:

The NRM is a unique bus designed and intended to be used in London for its full economic life

Well, that was a load of cobblers then, wasn’t it, chaps?


Having taken the wee out of the New Routemaster for several years for being massively overweight and unable to meet TfL’s capacity it’s only fair to point out that the weight has come down:

  • First 8 – 12650kg
  • First production batch – 12460kg
  • Around number 95 – 12220kg
  • Around number 176 – 12230kg
  • Around number 194 – 12140kg
  • Last Euro V batch for the 8 – apparently 12110kg

So, steady improvement then, and only 300kg about the originally planned 11800kg.

The most recent conversion, the 453, is also the first route wholly run by Euro VI buses, which have had to be substantially re-engineered to take the heavier, hotter Cummins Euro VI engine, now built in China rather than Darlington.  The rate of conversion has been noticeably slow, too, suggesting supply chain issues.

The 453 stands at Marylebone station at the northern end, convenient for me returning from a trip on Friday night, so I took a close look at brand new NRMs LT297 and LT307.  The result surprised even me:


20141121_181622Yes, that’s 12430kg, over 300kg more than the last Euro V batch and within a whisker of the first production batch weight. This, obviously, means the capacity is reduced accordingly.  The original production weight of 12460kg resulted in a capacity restricted to, as we saw then, 62 seated/18 standing, so the best the latest ones can be is 81, six fewer than the double deckers previously operating the route, which is also a driver only route (the PVR is unchanged at 35).  Quite what benefit the 453’s customers get from this entirely defeats me.

Other Euro VI bus weights we know about – the first generation Enviro 400H also put on 300kg and is about 12205kg now, the imminent second generation MMC version is likely to be around 11500-11700kg, I reckon, and the third generation B5LH with Wrightbus bodywork is a svelte 11250kg or so, so the Lard Bus is now around 1250kg heavier than the state of the art.  This won’t do wonders for its already poor fuel economy.

That the bus was going to be overtaken by technology in a fast-moving market was inevitable, but that this happens just as TfL spunks another few million on 200 more of them is frankly astounding, not least considering it’s recently been revealed that there is no business case for them:

A review of the business case of the original project produced a benefit cost ratio (BCR) of 15:1 for NRMs compared to hybrids, with one person operation and based on Euro V emissions differences. The emissions benefits for Euro VI NRM buses over Euro VI hybrids are expected to be marginal (as detailed in paragraph 3.9), which would reduce the BCR to around 0.2:1. However, given the popularity of NRMs with passengers (as noted in paragraphs 3.3 and 3.4) and their impact in driving up overall customer satisfaction and brand momentum for buses, it is considered that this is a worthwhile investment

The justification for these expensive boondoggles is purely down to notional customer satisfaction (I bet that wasn’t measured on the hottest day of the summer) and something called ‘brand momentum’, which sounds suspiciously like total BS – what’s wrong with running an efficient bus network for passengers to use, preferably without boiling them or jacking up fares to pay for a politician’s vanity project?  Also note that even TfL themselves are now accepting there are no environmental benefits either, as section 3.9 says:

NRMs with Euro V compliant engines are more fuel efficient and produce significantly lower levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) compared to other Euro V hybrid buses. On average, the NRMs introduced to date have improved fuel efficiency by almost 50 per cent compared to the diesel vehicles they have replaced. However given the advancement of Euro VI emission standards, which have ultra-low PM and NOx emissions across all vehicle types (80 per cent and 95 per cent reduction respectively), the PM and NOx benefits of NRM at Euro VI are marginal compared to standard Euro VI hybrids.

I’ll go further – these 200 extra buses, bought with no open tendering or competition, will be worse for both fuel economy and pollution than off the shelf 2014 model standard Euro VI hybrids like the B5LH and Enviro400H MMC, due to carrying at least a tonne of excess weight and having lower capacity.  They will not be hop on hop off (all future routes appear intended, like the 453, to be one person operated).  They will still be too long for many routes.  We’re supposedly getting 2000 of them by 2020, and I’m not sure London’s bus network finances can cope.  However, tucked away at the bottom was an admission that there may not be 2000 of the bloody thing after all:

TfL was able to purchase up to 1,000 buses from Wrightbus under the current contract. No decision was proposed on the order of the next 1,000 vehicles as other bus manufacturers were looking to develop their own double-decker buses with NRM features, which would give TfL options when considering future vehicle choices.

Which ‘NRM features’ would these be – the extra length that stops it running on some routes, the extra weight that reduces its capacity, the pointless rear door that attacks people, the hideous front end, the gloomy, airless interior?  Perhaps it might be better to forget these features and, say, buy 1000 regular, 11000kg hybrids and put the money saved into a fare cut?

On a serious note, it’s well past time for those responsible for this appalling waste of money (which is Peter Hendy and Leon Daniels, mainly) to be given a severe grilling by the London Assembly over the dodgy maths and assumptions being made here and properly held to account, not least over the apparently arbitrary exemptions granted to the NRM project for both value for money and passenger capacity.  Actually, it’s high time that the pair of them were replaced by people with a proper public service ethos and fresh ideas, since with Boris permanently off the job now they’re beginning to run TfL as a personal project rather than a public body.  As a reminder to the pair of them, the job of London Buses is to move Londoners efficiently by bus, not build ‘icons’, puff the ego of the ludicrous Thomas Heatherwick with his apparently insatiable appetite for public money, pick and choose companies to receive millions of pounds of public money or go on ludicrous tours of hot countries to sell a bus with no air conditioning that broils its passengers even in London.


There’s a by-election this Thursday, in which the Conservatives are going to lose Rochester and Strood to their former MP Mark Reckless and his new swivel-eyed friends in UKIP.   There are many reasons for this; no one likes the Tories much, their candidate is terrible, the new Kipper convert has a good story to tell (‘My principles wouldn’t let me stay in that shower so I’m giving the electorate a choice’), Labour voters are quite likely to lend votes to annoy Cameron and the constituency falls into the ‘depressed eastern coastal town left behind by globalisation’ pattern Farage’s lot find congenial (although to be strictly accurate it’s not *that* depressed, compared to other areas, but hang in there).

Naturally, before giving up, the Tories all but threw the kitchen sink at Reckless to try and retain the seat – Cameron planning on heading there five times personally and ordering a maximum effort from his remaining MPs.

[H]e’s not doing it all on his own. He has also ordered his 300 Tory MPs and ministers to visit the seat at least three times by polling day

The New Statesman, quoting the Telegraphreports hapless Chief Whip Michael Gove exhorting the troops to greater efforts in defence of the Motherland…

…sending out regular “Roll of Honour” emails to the parliamentary party, listing the number of times each MP has visited the seat, and naming and shaming those who have yet to travel to Medway to take on their former colleague.

Good boys and girls on this list include Grant Shapps, William Hague and Theresa May.  Missing in action are the Awkward Squad of near-UKIPpers and one Boris Johnson, who has taken time off to go to the USA to promote his new work of fiction.  Why would Boris not rush to help his party defend a key seat only a few minutes from north London by high speed train?

Partly it’ll be his laziness, some of it will be because he wants to position himself post-Cameron as the UKIP -attracting real Tory leader, then there’s his habit of hiding when there’s a risk of coming out on the losing side but his absence is mainly it’s because of one thing – his ridiculous and now deceased estuary airport plan.  Indeed, one of the key figures of the anti airport campaign was one Mark Reckless, as the large ‘boris johnson’ section on his blog testifies.  There’s even a video of Reckless questioning Boris directly, which incidentally makes fairly clear that Reckless is a sharper operator.  With the airport all but dead, Boris’s standing in the areas is approximately zero and his presence would only bolster the UKIP campaign (which has a heavy NIMBY element to say the least).

Indeed, having Boris in the USA may well be a mutually beneficient arrangement – the Tories don’t run the risk of him shooting his mouth off about plonking an airport on top of the place and he doesn’t get associated with electoral failure, with the bucket of manure heading squarely for the mazzard of David Cameron (and, of course, Michael Gove, who detests Boris, mutually).

Strangely, there’s an year-old invitation for Boris to visit the Medway area to explain his airport plans to the local, Conservative controlled council, which as far as we know he’s never taken up:

Boris Johnson should visit Medway and explain why he wants to build an airport here, according to the council.

The authority has called on the London Mayor to travel down from the capital in the wake of a trip by his aviation adviser to the county.

Daniel Moylan visited Maidstone to talk to members of the Kent Economic Board on Tuesday (September 24).

If he’d combined this with a campaigning trip this week he could have killed two birds with one stone.  I wonder why he didn’t?

Leader Cllr Rodney Chambers (Con) said a visit by Mr Johnson would be a “golden opportunity” for them to “state why it is the worst possible option”.

Ah, that’ll be why.  Perhaps Boris isn’t the answer to attracting back angry UKIP voters after all, if his relations with his own party are so poisonous.


Today’s announcement of Transport for London’s 2015 fares package by the Mayor of London, who is personally responsible for setting the fares, reveals huge rises for users of Oyster Pay As You Go and paper One Day Travelcards.

The incentive for travellers to avoid the congested Zone One area was removed by Boris Johnson in 2011 when he withdrew both the Zones 2-6 One Day Travelcard and daily Oyster cap for those zones and now the Mayor of London has abolished the daily Off-Peak Oyster cap, meaning there is no incentive for travellers to avoid the busy morning peak period.

I regularly reach the current off-peak Oyster cap of £8.50, travelling within Zones 1-5, but from January 2015 that daily cap will be £10.90 - a huge rise of 28%.

The off-peak daily cap for Zones 1-6 will rise from £8.50 to £11.70 - an absolutely whopping rise of 38%.

The paper off-peak One-Day Adult Travelcard for Zones 1-6 will go up from £8.90 to £12.00, an increase of 35%, and the Child off-peak One-Day Travelcard goes up from £3.60 to £6.00 - an eye-watering 67% increase.

The Oyster single bus fare will rise from £1.45 to £1.50 and the 7-Day Bus Pass will go up from £20.20 to £21.00, respective increases of 3% and 4%.

Coincidentally, the single bus fare of £1.50 and weekly bus pass of £21 are exactly as predicted by Transport for London’s then-Head of Surface Transport, David Brown, in response to the idea of a “New Routemaster” – a concept which has since been introduced at great cost by Boris Johnson.


Boris (or TfL, who are increasingly operating as a semi-detached body these days) wants to build a tunnel under the Thames from the southern Blackwall Tunnel approach to Silvertown on the northern bank.  This is, fairly obviously, a rubbish idea from start to finish; induced traffic, sprawl, air pollution, obesity and congestion are what road projects bring, not alleviate as TfL claim, so I’m filling in their consultation as follows.  Note that they ask for your views on the consultation before you’ve filled it in or seen the questions:

“What do you think about the consultation itself (leaflets, website, publicity etc.)?”

“It is unclear as to what TfL’s consultation strategy is, given the plethora of consultations being offered to the public on east London river crossings and the fact that this is not apparently the statutory consultation required by the new fast track infrastructure planning process. It would be far better to have one, widely advertised consultation on a range of road and non-road based options.

The visualisations offered are misleading, since they give the impression a new road will not be used by traffic, when the opposite is true. They should be redone showing the expected level of traffic generated by the tunnel plus other visualisations produced showing the traffic induced in other areas where no congestion relief is planned, such as on the A2 approaching the tunnel or on local roads around Lewisham, Greenwich and Newham Boroughs.

Finally, in discussion of journey times (such as Lewisham to Stratford) no reference is made to the existing public transport alternatives – the existing DLR from Lewisham to Stratford is already quicker than the car journey now or with the tunnel.

“We consider that a new crossing is needed to improve the resilience of the road network in east London, relieve congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel and beyond and to support growth in London’s population. Do you agree that a new crossing is needed and could successfully address these issues?”

“The resilience of road networks is not increased by adding traffic to them, but by removing traffic *from* them. Since adding new roadspace such as Silvertown induces new traffic, which inevitably adds to congestion on routes where no roadspace has been added, the net effect will be to increase congestion and reduce the resilience of the network. It therefore fails in this primary objective.

As for supporting growth in London’s population, London has increased by approximately a million people over the last few years while road traffic has declined. There is therefore no supporting evidence for needing to support road traffic growth as an inevitable corollary of population growth. In fact the evidence is the other way.”

“Would you support a user charge that was similar to Dartford charges levels, and during peak periods slightly higher, to help pay for the new crossing and resulting in more reliable journey times and less overall delays?”

“The route, if tolled, would disincentivise use of it during peak times – that’s the point. Unless roadspace reallocation is planned in local town centres traffic will be displaced to those areas, worsening the local environment. Additionally a time-based user charge will incentivise travel around the edges (say at 6pm, as happens in the congestion charging zone). This will therefore push traffic seeking to avoid the tolls through residential areas in the early evening.

A true road pricing system would avoid these negative effects, actually deliver the targets for resilience and reliability and almost certainly avoid the need to pay for the expensive tunnel altogether.

“Would you sign-up to an account system, with the benefits of auto-pay and a charge that would be lower than what non-account holders would pay?”


“The Silvertown Tunnel would create an opportunity for new cross-river bus connections. What sort of new bus connections do you think are important?”

“It is more important to improve the reliability and speed of existing public transport alternatives, which requires bus priority and reduction in traffic. This scheme includes neither, so it is immaterial what bus connections I consider important as they would not be effective.”

“We will link the new tunnel to the existing road network with new junctions in the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula areas.

Do you agree that the new junction in the Royal Docks area on the north side provides the right connections?”


“We will link the new tunnel to the existing road network with new junctions in the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula areas.

Do you agree that the new junction at the Greenwich Peninsula on the south side provides the right connections?”


“Please use the space below to let us know any additional comments you may have on our proposals for new junctions to link the tunnel to the existing road network:”

“The southern one appears to have extremely tight corners and a junction for merging traffic possibly with poor sight-lines.  The northern one, with a dual carriageway terminating on a signalled roundabout linking several existing roads, has extremely limited capacity and begs the question as to what the point of spending the thick end of a billion pounds on all that capacity is if you’re going to hold it up at traffic lights and expect an unmodified existing road network to disperse it”

“We have published a large number of technical reports. These deal with a number of disciplines, including traffic, the environment, optioneering and engineering, amongst others. If you have any comments on our methodology or approach to any of these disciplines, please let us know in the space below.”

“The traffic forecasts (st-silvertown-traffic-forecasting-report.pdf page 5) suggest that car use will continue to be a declining share of trips, yet no public transport alternatives for river crossings are being prioritised, nor is this called out properly.

This risks misleading people into thinking that car traffic growth is overwhelming when in fact it isn’t. Further, it indicates that new developments north of the river should (and probably will) cater primarily to the public transport mode share and therefore will disproportionately attract people via those modes despite the investment going into roads.

Far from supporting the case for the tunnel, the technical reports tell me that it could easily become a white elephant, never paying back its construction cost, because the developments it is intended to serve are not built to generate tolled trips via the tunnel.

It is clear that elsewhere in London major developments such as Kings Cross and Old Oak Common, the City margins or the existing Docklands sites are not demanding increased road space on this scale, and the reasons why this trend does not apply to the Royal Docks and other local developments are unclear.”

“Please use the space below to let us know any other thoughts you may have”

“It is dispiriting to find that in the 41 years since the 1973 abandonment of the Ringway plans, a decision which paved the way for London to lead UK transport policy economically and environmentally ever since, that the arguments that were entirely disproved by that decision have been ignored or forgotten.

– Encouraging car use does not automatically bring growth – we have had sizeable economic growth in London for years with reducing car use

– Building roadspace does not alleviate congestion – the M25 widening schemes that fill up immediately show this, as do myriad examples around the world.

– Increasing population does not require new roads – London’s population was around 7.1m in 2000 and is now 8.6m, without any additional roadspace and in the centre particularly quite large reductions

– The public do not demand the right to drive everywhere without congestion as much as they demand freedom from traffic in their local environment

The view that people need to drive from home to work and workplaces therefore need good road connections is wrong – in London commercial property developers, judging by where they choose to invest, know that good public transport access attracts top-rank tenants to their developments far more than being right beside a major road. They also know that land used for parking is land you can’t make money from, and without parking there’s no need for new roadspace. If no one’s building new commercial developments requiring car commuting and internet shopping is replacing car-based shopping, where is this vital traffic growth coming from?”


The unveiling of the stupidly named ‘New Tube For London’ was a relief for a few reasons – first, it wasn’t designed by Thomas bloody Heatherwick, and thus looks like a thoroughly modern urban metro rather than a badly executed nostalgia fantasy, second it looks nothing like the ugly Siemens concept that was flying around a couple of years go, but also because it confirms that two of Boris’s much-vaunted RMT bashing pronouncements were as false as we suspected all along:

Boris Johnson promises driverless Tube trains within 10 years

Mr Johnson, who is standing for re-election in May, said if returned to office he would not buy new Tube trains with drivers’ cabs.

Both the promise of driverless tube trains by 2022 and no purchase of trains with cabs have now unquestionably been broken.  As we’ve seen, the capacity crunch on the Northern and Jubilee, where the new SELTRAC signalling enables more trains to run but there aren’t enough trains, will require a purchase of a considerable number of new trains in the next year or so to avoid severe overcrowding.  Modern Railways ‘London Special’ in the October 2014 issue says:

Up to 68 new trains could be bought, but this is the top end of the estimate.  Current thinking is that five will be needed for the Battersea extension, 19 for service intensification on the Northern Line and between 10 and 18 for service intensification on the Jubilee.

The OJEU notice reveals that the project is now called ‘Jubilee and Northern Additional Trains’ (JNAT):

To support the planned upgrade of the Jubilee and Northern Lines and extension of Northern Line service to Battersea, TfL currently intends to purchase between 11 and 63 tube trains in 6 or 7 car formation. It is anticipated that the trains will be required to substantially replicate the gauging and functionality of the existing Jubilee and Northern Line rolling stock in the form of a “modern equivalent vehicle”. Apart from specific differences associated with infrastructure and operating differences, the new trains are expected to be of generally the same gauge and specification for each line. TfL may also include certain upgrades to the existing fleet on the Jubilee and/or Northern Lines within the contract. The scope of the contract, number of trains required and maintenance arrangements will be further defined following completion of ongoing feasibility studies.

These trains will have to have cabs, and train operators in them, because that’s how the Northern and Jubilee operate.  They will also be ‘new’, in the sense that TfL is aware that the existing design is 20 years old, so these will be substantially new designs, but to the same broad shape as existing ones, and one presumes similar interfaces and controls to reduce training costs.  The first is intended for service in 2017, so major changes to the operation of the line are out of the question, there isn’t time, and in fact 2017 is pretty ambitious given that no one currently has an in-production tube gauge train – the most recent ones apart from Bombardier’s Victoria Line stock were the extra carriages inserted into the Jubilee Line trains in 2005, which were built by Alstom in Spain.  It would be highly odd if anyone other than Alstom got the contract for these trains, since they built them and maintain them under a PFI deal, so are pretty much on their own as far as understanding the existing trains and the interaction with the lines.  Of course, the trains need new drivers, so one presumes the prediction last year that Boris will leave office with significantly more tube drivers holds true.  In fact the number are likely to have gone up.

So, why are the Piccadilly Line trains, which are a new design restricted to one line, not driverless from day one?  The basic engineering facts are:

  1. Mixed running – the large new fleet will take several years to deliver, starting in 2022.  You can’t run driverless and non-driverless on the same line
  2. The enhanced frequencies require automated train operation – computers are better train drivers – and this will be SELTRAC as on the Northern and Jubilee and by then the SSL lines too, barring another procurement disaster
  3. PEDs – TfL now appear to accept that driverless trains require platform edge doors, which are complicated and expensive to add to existing stations, particularly given the amount of traffic on the lines – out of hours installation is also constrained by the 24 hour tube plans.
  4. The Piccadilly has 53 stations, 25 of them below ground. At any conceivable level of progress (say one a month) fitting PEDs to all stations will take several years to complete.
  5. You can’t start installing PEDs until the old trains go, as it’s unlikely the door spacings will match (unless TfL accept this as a limitation of their new design, and even if they did you’d need to equip the trains you’re about to scrap with interlocks to open the PEDs)
  6. Until you’ve got all stations PED equipped you can’t run driverless trains due to the risk of grating the customers down the tunnels
  7. There are a number of stations where PEDs are problematic due to platforms shared with the different length/different door spacings of S-Stock (Acton Town and Ealing Common plus Rayners Lane to Uxbridge).  London Reconnections covers this extensively here.

This means, regardless of what Boris and his anti-RMT cheerleaders want there’s no engineering prospect of unattended operation on the Piccadilly in 2022, nor really until around 2030, to give enough time for the new trains to bed in, old trains to be removed, PEDs to be introduced everywhere and any service changes to cope with mixed stock made.  Since there’s a train operator at the front there has to be a cab for them, so TfL’s next two tube stock purchases will be of two different designs of cabbed tube train, totalling more than 150 sets.

Even once you’ve got the engineering sorted it’s not clear that UTO will mean no staff on the trains (for evacuation assistance reasons if nothing else, as there are no walkways down the side of the train as are normally provided on new lines like Crossrail/DLR/JLE) as this RMT leaked document shows:

One of the key areas of concern for many members of our train teams is the prospect of ‘driverless trains’. However, let’s be clear – when the New Tube is introduced it will have an operator (driver) on board. No final decision has been made on the long term staffing arrangements of the New Tube

If you’re a train operator today and you’re prepared to be flexible you will continue to have a job, in the cab of a train, for your entire career at LU

In short, UTO is sufficiently far off for most RMT members to be retired and on their pensions by then, so one assumes their usual woofing is in fact hiding a large helping of ‘I told you so’ and some grins. They know that TfL are constrained by rising passenger numbers, limited funding and basic engineering facts and will be hiring large numbers of new train operators over the next decade.  In turn TfL know that they’ve got to build some industrial relations bridges after the disastrous Boris era, and the soothing tone of the briefing document suggests that they are beginning this process.  The sum total of Boris spending six years shouting about driverless trains is no driverless trains, more strikes, zero tube trains ordered and a rush to buy enough to cope with the ever-growing congestion on the network.


Boris Johnson has allegedly been assaulted on an East Coast train on the way back to Kings Cross this evening:

He was spotted on his way North on a train last night:

and apparently spent today engaging in that people’s sport of grouse shooting:


£40 to you, squire/lady. Yes, Boris Johnson’s found time in his busy schedule of running London electioneering in Uxbridge, dashing off his £250,000 chickenfeed column and writing weighty tomes of biography with attendant research trips to take part in a Q+A with Telegraph Head of Books, discussing his new book.


Someone please remind Boris Johnson that he’s (supposedly) the Mayor of London and is meant to work for Londoners.

Earlier this week, Johnson visited the HQ of Nationwide Building Society in Swindon - located near the M4 motorway due to ease of access to Heathrow Airport. You remember, that place which provides direct and indirect employment for over 100,000 people yet Boris Johnson wants to raze it to the ground and build a new play-set for himself in the Thames Estuary.

Then again, now he’s pretending that Heathrow would stay open in the unlikely event that his new toy was ever built. Like a petulant toddler, however, he’s refusing to be told and has vowed to continue to waste time and money on just one of his many vanity projects – £5.2m of Transport for London’s budget [PDF] has been squandered due to Johnson’s pig-headedness.

Johnson’s visit to a company several counties away from London was part of his attempts to pretend that he cares about businesses outside the capital – only yesterday he was feigning interest about industry in Stoke:

The reason for Johnson’s new-found enthusiasm for the regions is that he is angling for a Cabinet position after his election as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

Why waste time on the concerns of Londoners when you can travel about at their time and expense, campaigning for Wiltshire Conservative candidates:

Have afternoon tea at a Wiltshire hotel:

and then be the cabaret at a swanky fundraising dinner for Somerset Conservatives?

A tiring day of self-publicity for the Mayor of London on Tuesday this week, so he’d be back hard at work for Londoners at City Hall the next day? Not quite. The prospective Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip obviously has better things to do:

This is what Londoners can expect until the end of Johnson’s term as Mayor of London in May 2016 – complete disregard for the job he is being paid to do and utter contempt for those who were foolish enough to vote him in. Boris’s number one priority is Boris.