When the price of cycle hire doubled in January 2013 there was, not unreasonably, considerable disquiet amongst the scheme’s customers; the latest user survey cites it as the most frequently quoted worsening aspect of the service.  With the publication of the per-day ridership for the final month of 2013-14 we can now see the effect on the full year numbers, and it’s not good:

  • 2010-11 (partial year, period 5-13 only) – 3,538,438
  • 2011-12 (first full year) – 7,579,184
  • 2012-13 (Olympics in periods 5 and 6) – 9,302,704
  • 2013-14 (wet March and price hike) – 8,160,398

That’s 1.1m fewer rides, a drop of 12% year on year.  So, apart from not having the Olympics, what happened?  Crucially the per-period ridership shows that the Olympic effect lasted much longer than the games – the two Games periods (2012-13 P5 and P6) showed 80% and 73% rises in hire bike use, but the following periods still recorded healthy rises of 20-30% on 2011-12.

 Period 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
1 673,639 607,613 591,235
2 664,267 776,764 685,584
3 569,476 808,714 734,625
4 639,776 846,241 884,765
5 234,834 632,967 1,137,496 848,738
6 447,470 577,517 998,477 721,250
7 507,236 683,916 829,822 642,866
8 465,024 577,704 729,789 523,513
9 368,535 520,508 641,295 484,589
10 231,195 327,806 437,010 360,580
11 403,103 471,230 511,129 469,150
12 391,136 486,910 517,502 527,782
13 489,905 753,468 460,852 685,721
3,538,438 7,579,184 9,302,704 8,160,398

Then came the price hike, at the end of 2012-13 Period 10 – the change between the two years up excluding the Olympic periods reads:

  • P7 :  21%
  • P8 : 26%
  • P9 : 23%
  • P10 (last before hike): 33%
  • P11 (first after hike): 8%
  • P12 : 6%
  • P13 : -39% (wet March 2013, mostly)
  • P1 : -3%
  • P2 : -12%
  • P3 : -9%
  • P4 : 5%

Fairly clear there that the price hike had an considerable effect on ridership growth during the low winter/spring months, in many cases sending it negative.  In total for those non-Olympic periods the position was basically flat – 6.9m to 7m, barely a 2% rise.

We also need to factor in the two scheme expansions into our timeline:

  • Original (central London) – 30th July 2010 (2010-11 P5 W1) – ‘44 square km
  • Phase 2 (east London) – 8th March 2012 (2011-12 P13 W1) – ‘almost a third‘ bigger – ’65 square km’
  • Price rise – 2nd Jan 2013 (2012-13 P10 W4)
  • Phase 3 (west London) – 13th December 2013 (2013-14 P10 W1) – ‘2000 new bikes‘ – ‘over 100 square km’

We should probably look at the two graphs – first the year-on-year ridership by week, latest year in red, year before in dark blue:



Then the seven day rolling average, same colours:



The original Phase 2 expansion shows up well, although it was launched just at the turn of spring there’s an immediate leap of 20-60k a week most weeks, rising massively during the Olympics.  Then comes the price hike, and our post price rise line suddenly starts tracking the previous year quite closely, sometimes above, sometimes below.  Through the summer it dips considerable below, but this is post-Olympic blues – pre-Olympics in P4 W3 it was quite a lot higher, but after that it’s downhill all the way as the post Olympic honeymoon is not repeated – there’s a substantial gap of anywhere up to 60,000 riders who’ve gone missing after the price was raised.  Finally we have the Phase 3 expansion, now well over double the original scheme area, since when the red line has virtually matched the dark blue line from the year before. Remember that the price hike was already in by the but the scheme was smaller.  From that, over the winter and early spring at least the costly expansion of the scheme by around a third has merely restored the ridership levels from where the were the year before – it’ll be some months before we see if better weather encourages higher take-up.

We can revisit our estimates of cost and subsidy, therefore:

  • Opex 2012-13 – £24m (Phase 2 sized scheme)
  • Rider income 2012-13 – £8m
  • Sponsorship 2012-13 – £5m
  • Ridership 2013-14 – £9.3m
  • Fee paid per ride: 8/9.3 = £0.86
  • Subsidy/ride: £1.20

For 9 periods of 2013-14 the scheme was the same size, while the last 4 it was about 33% bigger in area – assuming a pro-rata increase in opex that’s 24/13*9 + 24/13*4*1.33 = £26.4m

For 10 periods of 2012-13 the scheme was priced at half the remaining 3 periods, so we need to allow a pro-rata factor for income, also allowing for the lower income in the winter months – 16% of the ridership was after the price hike – a bit of fiddling (don’t ask) suggests about £1.48 income per ride after the charges were hiked.  Assuming which based on our 8.2m rides in 2013-14 we get a useful boost from £8m to around £12m.  Barclays we assume stays the same at £5m a year given that the contract stupidly has no uprating in it.

Putting it together:

  • Opex 2013-14 – £26.4m (mixed Phase 2 and Phase 3 scheme)
  • Rider income 2013-14 – £12m
  • Sponsorship 2013-14 – £5m
  • Ridership – 8.2m
  • Subsidy – 26.4 – 12 – 5 = £9.4m
  • Subsidy/ride = 9.4/8.2 = £1.15

So after doubling the price the subsidy per ride is down 5% or so.  Given how loose some of the assumptions here are (we really need full year opex and full year sponsorship to make it work) it’s probably safest to say it’s made no provable difference we can see to the levels of subsidy either way.

Where do we go from here?  Clearly the price can’t be raised again if growth is essentially flat as a result and, expanding the scheme further out merely increases opex, again resulting in high levels of subsidy.  The only thing left really is to ensure that whoever replaces Barclays as scheme sponsor pays a considerably higher whack towards it – £10m to £12m a year would reduce subsidy levels from eye watering to comparable to those that the buses were running at in, er, 2008.  Whether this is possible from a single sponsor or via the much more obvious idea of competitively tendering advertising space on bundles of bikes a hundred at a time it’ll be interesting to find out.  The current deal runs out in August 2015.


Several years and £5m of our money later, London’s part-time Mayor is still banging on about his fantasy estuary airport.

Yesterday, he had a day out to the London Borough of Hillingdon to promote the local Conservatives’ manifesto, the month before the borough elections:

Got that? No Conservative wants to close Heathrow.

No third runway and no closure, OK? After all, according to the airport’s latest employment survey [PDF] almost 9,000 inhabitants of the London Borough of Hillingdon work there, and no Council Leader in their right mind would want to destroy the jobs of so many of their constituents. Would they?

Last week’s Sunday Politics London told a very different story:

Reporter Andrew Cryan: Heathrow has never been much loved by Boris Johnson; his preference for a hub airport in the Thames Estuary is famous. But this week, the Mayor announced his plans for how he’d like to see Heathrow closed forever. A bold move, to say the least.

It’s hard to think of anything in West London which is bigger in economic terms. It’s directly responsible for over 100,000 jobs. What the Mayor’s critics say is this: There are very few examples of the mayor of a town lobbying to close one of its greatest economic assets. Instead, the Mayor would like to see something a bit like this [brandishes Gensler's artist's impression] – Heathrow redeveloped and turned into an entirely new suburb. On Monday, he launched his vision of how he thinks it should happen.

Boris Johnson: You’ve got a site 1,200 hectares, bigger than Kensington and Chelsea, virtually, where you could have all sorts of things – hi-tech, universities, we think about 90,000 jobs, maybe 190,000 population, tens of thousands, 80,000 new homes – fantastic opportunity for West London.

Andrew Cryan: The loss of jobs at Heathrow isn’t such a problem, according to the Leader of the Council where the airport is situated.

Ray Puddifoot, Conservative Leader of Hillingdon Council : Nothing remains the same forever. At one time there were huge elements of the population engaged in looking after horses, then somebody ups and invents the motor car. Now, what’s happened to them? They’re doing something else now, aren’t they? [They're all dead, mate - Ed]

Andrew Cryan: Now, what we’ve heard a lot about is what would happen to the Heathrow Airport site if the airport was to close, but what’s not in these documents [brandishes document with TfL logo] is details of what would happen to the rest of London if the airport was to shut.

There then follows an interview with Alan Smith of haulage company Mixed Freight Services, who rightly says that many jobs would be lost.

Back to the Sunday Politics studio, where Jo Coburn is talking to Boris Johnson’s Aviation Adviser, Conservative Daniel Moylan:

Jo Coburn: Is this a pipe dream or a realistic plan?

Daniel Moylan: I think this is very realistic, Jo, I think we’ve got to put this in the context of the fact that nobody else seems to mention but Boris is very aware of, that between now and 2030 the population of London is likely to grow by another 2m people, by 25%. And if you’re sitting there as Mayor of London, you’ve got to think hard about homes and jobs for them.

Now, we have a congested West London and we have a Heathrow Airport that isn’t doing its job, which is constrained, which is environmentally damaging, and like other cities, which has been done successfully elsewhere, we should think of moving that outside the city limits. And yes, we should be thinking: What can we do with the site that’s left over? Rapidly to move, to have jobs and homes for people, to accommodate this large population. It’s absolutely the right thing to do and it’s not at all a pipe dream.

Jo Coburn: Right. I mean, how many people living in Hounslow and other parts of West London rely on Heathrow for their living?

Daniel Moylan: About 143,000 people, 145,000 people, have direct and indirect…

Jo Coburn: So they’d lose their jobs?

Daniel Moylan: No, they would not lose their jobs.

Jo Coburn: Well, they would if you moved the airport, there’d be no jobs.

Daniel Moylan: They would not lose their jobs, far from it. Aviation is a growing industry, there’d be more people in London employed, there’d be more people in London employed in aviation if you actually allowed it to grow. This is not like a car factory, those have been going out of business, or a steelworks, this is a growing industry. There’d be more people employed, many of those people would relocate. Other people would…

Jo Coburn: Right, let me just pick you up on the relocation, because if you’re talking about the source of jobs that people in Hounslow have, when they travel a very short distance to Heathrow Airport – baggage handlers, caterers, cabin crew, cleaners – how on earth are they going to be able to relocate? They’re not paid very well, they rely on the airport for their livelihoods.

Daniel Moylan: The fact is that with the right surface access and trains they’ll be able to get to their jobs – this has been managed very well.

Jo Coburn: Who’s going to pay for their commuting? That’s the whole point about these vital workers, that they can’t afford to travel distances – they have to be near the jobs they do.

Daniel Moylan: Well, that isn’t true across London. I’m afraid, Jo, you don’t know how London works.

Jo Coburn: I do!

Moylan: I think there’ll be a dislocational effect that the government can actually help with, in terms of skills and training, and the sort of things that people want. Over a fifteen-year period, and that you will certainly get huge net benefits from doing this.

Jo Coburn: Yes, there would be an adverse effect while this new airport was being built.

Daniel Moylan: No. During, while the new airport was being built, Heathrow would remain open during the whole of the period because you’ve got no other airport. While it’s being built, and while it’s being planned and developed, a fifteen-year period, anybody who wants to stay working at Heathrow would be able to do so. Other people working at Heathrow – police officers, customs officers, immigration officers – would have relocation packages. The BBC moved to Salford not so long ago, done in a humane and sensible way.

Sunday 6 April: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and his Aviation Adviser, Daniel Moylan, both appear on Sunday Politics, saying that they want Heathrow Airport to close.

Thursday 10 April: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, makes time in his busy schedule of electioneering photo calls and book writing to deny that Heathrow would close if his estuary airport were built.

That’s how he rolls, people of London.

UPDATE: Still Hillingdon Tories persist with their self-deception. God help us:


There was another snippet of MOAR ROADS in yesterday’s LBC phone in – here’s a transcription.  Given what happened over Hammersmith there’s no guarantee this is what he’ll say next month, of course:

NF: Mark in Dagenham

BJ: Mark in Dagenham..sorry I turned over your page and lost you…Mark in Dagenham

Mark: Hello, Boris, thanks for taking my call.

BJ: Not at all

Mark: Um, question for you – there’s supposed to be a new bridge coming over linking the north to the south circular…

BJ: Yes

Mark: But people in East London, Dagenham-wise, etc., all we have is a toll bridge, the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.

BJ: Yes

Mark: Which is, er, quite an expensive thing, er, tax on people going to work

BJ: Yes.  You’re talking about the Second Dartford Crossing here, are you, or are you talking…which which bridge are you talking about, Mark, you’re talking about the new bridge

Mark: The new bridge that’s supposed to be linking the north to the south circular. Beckton way.

BJ (nonplussed): Yep, yep, right..well there’s there’s there’s there’s

NF (over): I’m not aware of this bridge

BJ: Well, there’s sev..there’s several proposals we’re there’s there’s we’re doing. Go on.

Mark: My question is, what reassurances can you give to the people of east London that this won’t be a toll bridge?  Cos we’re all scared that that’s going to happen, and it’s not going to help people who can barely afford to go to work anyway.

NF: Mark, pardon my ignorance it’s it’s Nick Ferrari here, where does it leave the south and land, just so I get a full sense of this, where’s it going to take off and where’s it going to land, Mark, that you’ve heard?

Mark: Well, we’ve heard there’s supposed to be a bridge linking the North Circular, which runs from the M11 to the South Circular, running across Beckton.

NF: So it goes from Beckton what, into Eltham or Woolwich, or…?

Mark: It runs into, yeah, would be running into Eltham

NF: Running over…I thought that idea was…

BJ (over): That’s the Thames Gateway Bridge, yes

NF: Mr. Mayor, I thought that had been shelved?

BJ: Well, look. Let me, let me, let me, let me try and answer Mark’s question.  What we’ve got to do, Mark, actually, is build not just one bridge but a series of river crossings, we’re starting with the Blackwall 2 tunnel, which will help Nick Ferrari in particular…

NF: Yes

BJ: …and that will be going by 2020, or 2020-2021 – not so far away! erm, only six years or seven years to go, we’re going for the Blackwall 2 tunnel at Silvertown, but we will also need a series of crossings to the, to the east and actually there’s a there’s a there’s loads of sites that er, are we are looking at and, um, I think the important thing for people of um both on both sides is that you shouldn’t just do one, because if you do one then you’re going to get much more pressure, much more traffic on, on that area and if you if you you can dilute the traffic if you have if you have several crossings.  London is going east, Mark, it’s the big, the big changes in our, in our city are happening as the as the population starts to grow again in the east. Look at the jobs being created in, in Tower Hamlets, in in Newham, it’s incredible to look at the way employment is taking off in those boroughs, did you see those statistics yesterday about falls in unemployment in eastern London, it’s very very remarkable, we’ve got to build on that, we’ve got to build new river crossings but Mark’s really asking will I, will he have to pay, that’s what he really wants to know and the answer there Mark is look I’m really sorry but I think almost certainly yes is the answer and I’m very sorry to say that and I know it’s going to be erm you know news that you won’t you won’t want to hear but I I cannot see how we can in the current financially straightened circumstances put in huge new infrastructure like that, all of them cost hundreds of millions of pounds, without tolling them

NF: Let’s get a quick response from Mark. Mark, quickly if you would, a response to the Mayor

Mark: Well, I can understand the cost implications of this but people in West London enjoy free travel and I don’t see why we can’t, bearing in mind the ordinary working man we’re talking £20 a week just to actually use the bridge.

BJ: Well, Mark, I understand that point, I understand that point and I and I understand that, the sense of injustice historically because all those bridges were built in the west of London and that’s where, where the city was. I mean of course in the old days many of them were tolled and, and when they were first built they were tolled in order to, in order to get them built and that was the economic model that they had to use to construct those bridges and, and that is the grim reality of where we are today Mark, I am you know I I I wish I could give you a sort of er, tooth fairy answer and say it’ll all be fine and you won’t have to pay a thing er but that is that is not er you know…Perhaps TfL will tell me otherwise but I I I’d like <mumbling>

NF (interrupting): Mark in no way appearing glib of course if you are using that Dartford crossing, if you get a Dart Tag, it’s not massive but there is a saving as I’m sure  you’re aware, sir, so you don’t have to pay the whole £20, it might help a little bit. Mr. Mayor?

BJ: Can we go to Ray in Orpington

What’s interesting here is the accidental support given to the No Silvertown Tunnel campaign, first by calling it ‘Blackwall 2′, thus revealing it’s really a Ringway fragment, and secondly by admitting that building a single new road crossing will attract traffic and cause ‘pressure’ (i.e. congestion and presumably air pollution), which is the opposite of what TfL and the tunnel cheerleaders in Greenwich etc. have been arguing.

The tolling is a Roads Task Force thing – they argue that if you build new roads, they must be tolled to ‘lock in the benefits’, or people will use them too much.  OK, whatever, but what Boris didn’t tell Mark is that under the Silvertown plans they have to toll the near-parallel *current* Blackwall Tunnel as well, or the new tunnel will not be attractive and will end up like a ghostly underground equivalent of the empty cable car.

Oh, and Mark’s original question?  There’s no evidence TfL are yet mad enough to try and connect the North and South Circulars – what Mark presumably thinks is the Gallions Reach Bridge (formerly the TGB) which connects the North Circular to not much, really, other than Thamesmead.  The original plans there were to connect it to the southern part of Ringway 2, which doesn’t exist.  Or does it?  Next in this series of MOAR ROADS pieces is an assessment of the RTF’s London Orbital Tunnel, which is a kind of Ringway 1.5 and thus of some interest here.


Boris was on LBC again today, a month after the famous statement:

“We’ve been listening to this for months and months thinking come off it this is never going to work and actually it is brilliant.

“It adds up. It’s a most fantastic scheme. We’re going to tunnelise the flyover.

So, a month later, is cash allocated?  Are diggers moving in?  Do we, in fact, know which of the three/two/six schemes proposed he actually supports?  One clue may come from a pair of questions from the Green’s Darren Johnson to the Mayor at the last MQTs:

Will you commit to holding public meetings in Chiswick and Earls Court to consult local people on your proposal for a tunnel to replace the Hammersmith flyover?

As part of your consideration of future road layouts when the Hammersmith flyover reaches the end of its natural life, will one of the options include using this as an opportunity to reduce the traffic flow into central London?

Unfortunately neither has been answered yet.  The first one is interesting as it would give us a clear steer that Boris has gone for the long tunnel option that puts major road junctions at Chiswick and Earl’s Court.  The second makes the obvious point that since all the Hammersmith town centre options require roadspace removal to make way for the buildings (quite apart from the tunnel) the need for traffic restraint needs to be looked squarely in the face.

So, this morning’s LBC softball session with Nick Ferrari was interesting to see how much a month of speculation has affected Boris’s sunny confidence that the whole thing can be built in three or four years. A transcription follows, including the Mayor’s verbal ticks and repeated words that make these sorts of things so distinctive:

[7 minutes in, yet again discussing Boris 'going in', presumably to the House of Commons]

BJ: Well I don’t know, I don’t know what is it that I don’t know?

NF: You don’t know whether to go in or stay as where you are, you just don’t know, you, you, you go with the wind

BJ: <inarticulate> All I know I’ve got to do is…

NF (over): No no, just tell me I’m wrong with that

BJ: …people of London.

NF: ..move on

BJ: No because it”s a trap question, because…

NF: No it’s not

BJ (shouting): It’s a ludicrous, trap question! You you you you sit there, come on, everybody’s had enough of this…

NF: I’m enjoying it

BJ: …there’s Dan in West Hampstead

NF: Alright

BJ: …who needs to ask a serious question

NF: It is ‘Ask Boris’ of course, so we move on

BJ (mumbling): It’s not ‘Ask Ferrari’

<confused talking over each other>

BJ: You’re entitled to your views, but if you ever, are we are we, you said by the way that you conclude, does that mean that this question is now…

NF: How’s the Hammersmith Flyover going?

BJ: Aha! Doing well.

NF: Is it?

BJ: Yes

NF: That’s what’s made you decide not to go in last time.  Is it, have we got the plans, is it all green lighted?

BJ: Ah, well, not green lit, we’re not quite there yet, but it is just one of the series of amazing things you can do to improve the infrastructure of the city…

NF (over): When will, when will I be able to drive under Hammersmith and not fly over it?

BJ: Not in the next five years, but probably in the next fifteen years

NF (incredulous): FIFTEEN YEARS?  Ay, ay

BJ: Well come on, these things are not done overnight

NF: No, I’m sure

BJ: ..not done overnight.  Let’s go to Dan in West Hampstead

<irrelevant praise for LBC and idiotic banter about Nick Ferrari as Mayor snipped>


Dan: Boris, Boris, serious question is, Mr. Mayor, given the fact that London is potentially facing a fine of £350m for breaching pollution levels why are the lunatics at Transport for London concreting in and narrowing all the major roads in London – Whitehall, Waterloo Place down by Pall Mall, Parkway in Camden Town; they were all three lane roads where traffic flowed, they’re now single lane and all the other two lanes have been concreted in, and so traffic sits, belching out fumes, traffic tailing back for miles, up the road, why?

BJ: Uh, Dan, all I can say is that what we’ve done, I mean I’m not aware of the schemes that you’re, er, you’re mentioning there, not, er, part of our project to smooth traffic flow, and indeed I’m proud to say in fact that traffic speeds have microscopically increased under my, my Mayoralty from 9.3 to 9.4mph which isn’t much, er, consolation I know to people such as yourself who are stuck in traffic.  I’ll look at all the schemes that you, you mention . We are obviously very concerned about the first thing that you mentioned, which is the problems of air quality and, er, there we are obviously putting in loads of measures including cleaner buses, limits on taxi ages, measures to encourage walking and cycling to improve our air quality.  Actually, London is now only in breach of one, in, in one respect, in the er, which is nitrous oxide.  We’ve made huge progress and we’ve reduced nitrous oxide emissions by about 20%.  I’m not saying that we’ve, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve cracked it, but we’ve, er, we’ve made huge progress and don’t forget we’ve got, we’re bringing in the Ultra Low Emission Zone down by 2020 which really will make a huge difference to air quality in the centre of town.

NF: Quick response from you Dan?

Dan: Yeah, I listen to this stuff, I understand you’re doing all the other measures like the Low Emission Zone

Boris (over): …but it’s the narrowing of the streets you’re complaining about

Dan: Yes, exactly, I think it’s counter-intuitive, if you’re doing all the other measures, which I agree with you are great, and I love the fact that you’ve been planting thousands of trees over the last..I think that’s fantastic but as someone who goes round…I use public transport, I don’t drive all the time, it’s just recently I’ve noticed it’s crazy the traffic sits in a single lane that all goes stretching back from the traffic lights, all the way…

Boris (over): Listen, Dan, I’m I’m going to, I’m I’m going to get, I’m I’m going to going to take up every single point that you, you make, um, I, obviously I cycle everywhere so I see some of the impacts of some of these road improvements and sometimes I wonder what we’re doing and very often our traffic engineers will have a rational explanation for what is going on, almost almost almost always.  I’ll make sure that in respect of every single scheme that you mentioned, you mentioned Camden, various others, we will give you a

NF: Dan, run through the list, one of my colleagues will pass it on to the Mayor’s office, move to the next caller, Mr. Mayor

BJ: We’re going to Carol in Paddington

Very enlightening, I’m sure. It’s high time we wrote down what the full quote was last month:

[7:36 in]

NF: What is happening between you and George Osborne?
BJ: Um. George and I are, er, have a very good, er, working relationship and indeed an old, old friendship and what we’re wanting, what we both wanted to do is, ah, get David Cameron re-elected
NF (over): So will you be making a Commons comeback?
BJ: …in 2015…and that is that is the project about which we are united and that, in that we certainly
NF (over): And will you be making a Commons comeback?
BJ: I am going to be getting on, as I have never tired of telling you in the last eighteen months and I’m so sick of this subject I’m I think I’m going to I think I’m going to expire sometimes I’m going to get on and, er, er, my job as Mayor of London
NF: Would you be prepared to…would you be prepared…
BJ (over): Think of what we’re, Nick, think, Nick think of the joy of being Mayor of London why would, d’you know, the things we’re…
NF (over): So you don’t want to go back into the Commons prior to 2015?
BJ: Can I just tell you can I can I just tell you something you may not have heard
NF: I’m going to get Diana back on you…
BJ: Yeah, get Diana back in a minute but but let me
NF: Because I’m not going anywhere.
BJ: Nooo
NF: You’re not going to go back into the Commons?
BJ: I’m going to…
NF (over): Because you love being the Mayor?
BJ: I…Can I tell you something we had the oth…the other day? A presentation came in from Hammersmith and Fulham. Nick Botterill brought his team in from Hammersmith and Fulham. They’ve been working for months on this idea of creating a new town centre in Hammersmith and Fulham. They’re going to take this flyover and make it a flyunder and we thought..we’ve been listening to this for months and months thinking ‘ah, come off it, it’s never going to work’ and actually it is brilliant
NF: It’s going to happen?
BJ: It adds up. It’s the most fantastic scheme
NF: You’re going to go under?
BJ: We’re going to go we’re going to tunnelise the flyover
NF: Wow
BJ: And…
NF: When’s that happening?
BJ: …and…well this is all..the timescale will be, you know, three or four years I expect…
NF: Right
BJ: ..um…but it will be it is what was so what was so interesting was that even the hardened..er..TfL engineers looked at all this and they thought you know, because they’ve been, they’ve been very, pretty, pretty sceptical, and they thought it was a great scheme and so if you if you’re if you’ve got that sort of thing on your agenda, if you’ve got daily the excitement of of trying to run helping to run the greatest city on earth why on earth would you would you want to do anything else?
NF: So you’re not going into the Commons prior to 2015 because of the excitement of the Hammersmith Flyover..flyunder?
BJ: Correct. The sheer excitement of the Hammersmith Flyunder is keeping is is all I
NF: You’re not going, so despite George Osborne’s entreaties the answer’s no?
BJ: The answer is I’m sticking to my job which I was elected to do in..ah…2012…er..and indeed in 2008 and I’m very and people of London I’m very very privileged to be here

So the whole ‘we’ll build the flyunder in 3 years’ story came from Boris desperately trying not to say that he isn’t considering a tilt at Parliament in 2015.  At no point does he give Ferrari a straight answer, one notes, and tosses out the Flyunder story as bait to get him off the, er, hook.

The outstanding question therefore is ‘what happened between the 3rd March and 1st April to change ‘we’re going to tunnelise the flyover’, ‘three to four years I expect’ into ‘we’re not quite there yet’,'probably in the next fifteen years’.  Someone’s obviously had a word and pointed out that this isn’t in TfL’s business plan, plus the inherent problems with the feasibility study we’ve been documenting.  I’m sticking to my original idea that it’s all to do with the council elections and LBHF need Boris to promise support for their scheme in order to sell it to the public.  Unfortunately facts appear to have got in the way in the last four weeks and Boris now just looks shifty on both the Commons and Flyunder questions.  He’s noticeably less at ease in this month’s interview, actually.

Oh, and those road narrowing schemes Dan from West Hampstead is talking about that Boris hadn’t heard of?  Well, the Waterloo Place one was Westminster Council’s Piccadilly two-way scheme, which was opened in February 2012 by, er, Boris Johnson:

The final phase of a £12 million project to improve the public realm, traffic and pedestrian flow through Piccadilly, St James’s Street and Pall Mall has been officially opened by the Mayor of London.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: “By providing more paving, ripping out superfluous signs and restoring two-way traffic for the first time in almost 50 years, we are rejuvenating a jewel in London’s crown. This will ease the flow of traffic and is a terrific example of the work we are doing to provide better and more attractive streets in the Capital that will inspire and delight anyone that uses them.

‘Ease the flow of traffic’, there.  Nice to see the Mayoral finger firmly nowhere near the pulse as usual.


A secret TfL Board briefing document has reached us via an informed source, stating in bald terms that the basic economics of running the heavily used 38 bus route against the background of the bus subsidy cuts forced on London by George Osborne means London Buses are working on a plan to bring back bendy buses removed in 2009 rather than be forced to slash services.   The buses are available at a heavily discounted £15,000 as against £354,000 for a New Routemaster of considerably lower capacity, so considerable savings are anticipated.


The New Routemasters previously earmarked for the route are to be transferred to Boris’s ‘Capital Growth’ food growing initiative and used for growing tomatoes, where their lack of opening windows and adequate ventilation should provide ideal growing conditions during the summer months.


Since we like holding onto our lunch it’s been a while since we’ve looked at Andrew ‘Equivalent Of £95,000 A Year Of Your Money For What, Precisely?’ Gilligoon. A recent check on his GLA expenses provides mirth:

£16.49 – 16/04/2013 Business entertaining with Sustrains Directors – Quiteways Site Visit

That’s ‘Sustrans’, Andy.  For that matter, it’s ‘Quietways’, too – you invented them after all.  Don’t do it again.

£83.25 - 29/07/2013 Business entertaining with Sustrains Directors – Quiteways Site Visit

I always thought much of his stuff was copied and pasted without checking, but this rather seems to confirm it.


Despite what certain overpaid cycling commissioners asserted back in 2011, there’s no evidence TfL actually want to maintain the fiction that Boris Johnson has brought back open platform buses a moment longer than necessary to save his face – the ‘conductors’ (actually moonlighting drivers) were removed from the 38 last June, then we had the 24 with no nonductors in operation after 9pm.   The 390 (according to a cached page, TfL having not yet fixed their corporate archive on their new website) went one stage further:

Buses on route 390 will operate with the rear door open and a conductor on the rear platform for the majority of the day on weekdays (6am-6pm)

That’s 60 hours a week with the door open.  The 9 is the same.  Then the 148 conversion surprised more than a few people by having, er, no hop on hop off capability at all:

“Passengers rate the new vehicle very highly and relish the return of hop-on hop-off travel,” Boris Johnson said last year.

Now Transport for London has confirmed that there will be no conductor on board when the buses are brought into service on route 148 this Saturday

There’s not really been a convincing explanation of why Boris now can’t legitimately blather on about saving Londoners from the EU elfnsafety Taliban (which is a Great Boris Lie, of course).  TfL are merely saying they look at provision of open boarding on a route by route basis with nonductors on the ‘busier’ routes:

On the busier Central London routes, the bus will run with a conductor for most of the day. Conductors will not collect fares but will supervise the rear platform when they are on board, ensuring passenger safety when hopping on or off and providing travel advice.

Quite why having someone standing around taking up space helps on busier routes or why the 148 differs so much from any of the other routes starting in Hammersmith and Fulham (four out of the first five, one notes).  The 148 actually shares buses with route 9 (and eventually route 10) all out of Stamford Brook bus depot, so there are nonductors employed at the same garage by the same company (RATP) to operate the same buses on other routes.  Is it really less busy?  Is the 24 really that busy?

The only explanation I can think of is the obsession with nonductors providing tourist guide services – it may go down Hyde Park and Park Lane but as far as tourist sights are concerned the 148 only really goes through Parliament Square, while the other routes go past much more of ‘tourist’ London – Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and so on.  It’s not really a convincing explanation, though, and it’s perfectly possible it’s because the finances are beginning to get embarrassing.

Also, ‘most of the day’ is a bit of a canard, given that many of the routes are 24 hours.  The full list as we know it currently with an estimate of the percentage of the time open boarding applies:

  • 8 (5:30am – midnight) – TBD (converts 28/6/2014)
  • 9 (6am-11pm) – 60 hours a week, 50% of the time
  • 10 (24 hours) – TBD (converts 26/4/2014)
  • 11 – (5am-midnight) – rumoured to be 60 hours a week
  • 24 – (24 hours) – supposedly 6am-9pm (rumoured to stop earlier than that) 62.5% of the time
  • 38 – (5am-11:30pm) – TBD (converts 10/5/2014) – due to the excessive number of debendification buses currently employed there’s likely to be some major changes on this route which are worth keeping an eye on
  • 148 – no open platform operation, so 0% of the time
  • 390 – (24 hours) – 60 hours a week, 39% of the time

All of this is suggesting that TfL are having great difficulty reconciling the open platform hype with the savage cuts to bus subsidy Boris has agreed with George Osborne.  Is it yet another example of Boris’s refusal to look facts in the face until it’s too late?

Or is it?  There’s evidence this week that Boris may not actually be aware of what TfL are actually doing on the ground.  During a recent #askBoris Twitter Q&A, with questions as ever carefully picked to given him an easy hit, Boris’s minders slipped up and let this one through:

This is a classic bit of trolling, and evidently Boris and his web minders didn’t pick up that the recent publicity about the lack of open boarding on the 148 makes this an obvious elephant trap.  Dear oh dear.  When at first we set out to deceive, and all that.

We have three forthcoming conversions to hazard a guess at here.   The 8 I suspect is being converted for air quality reasons and will not have open boarding, the 10 is another Hammersmith and Fulham route through central London and will probably be 6pm on weekdays again.  The 38, as mentioned above, is an interesting case as the current frequency is insane and would cost a fortune while any cuts in frequency would risk bad press at peak periods and overcrowding – the 148s weigh in at 12230kg so still a lower capacity than the current buses.  The route also has a PVR of 54 or so, far higher than any existing lardbus route.

No matter how that’s sorted out there’s one glaring problem here, as I noticed on a recent stroll along Victoria St.  This has four bus routes, three of which are lardbuses (11/24/148), the other is the 211 operated by conventional E400s as well as hybrid E400Hs.  The lardbus fleet occasionally operates as entirely closed (after 9pm) or two routes open (24 and 11 before 6pm), or one route open (24 after 6pm or at weekends).  Now supposedly the open platform is to speed up boarding, but this can only be true if passengers have a clue as to which bus operates open boarding at which times, which I’m not even sure I’ve got a handle on.  Add in that not all buses that should run open do and it’s clear that most passengers won’t bother playing open platform bingo and simply treat the things as normal buses and wait by the front door.  This completely negates the ‘faster boarding’ argument that Leon Daniels is still trying to persuade us of.


Boris Johnson is asking the Home Secretary to approve his purchase of three water cannon for the Metropolitan Police, ignoring the fact that they can cause serious injury, a poll which found that 36% of those questioned were so ignorant that they believed that the Met already had water cannon and a petition of over 30,000 signatures objecting to the plans.

Oh, and he hasn’t even bothered to read the report of the London Assembly’s own Police and Crime Committee, Water Cannon – Why The Met’s Case Doesn’t Wash [PDF].

Why has the Mayor not read the report? Anything to do with the fact that the most important paid employment in his portfolio over the last year or so has been writing a book about Winston Churchill?

Chartwell, the Kent family home of Winston Churchill, received a visit from Boris Johnson yesterday:

London’s Mayor, who claims he always works at City Hall on Fridays, evidently found something more important to do during working hours yesterday.


Yesterday we pointed out that the Hammersmith public, when consulted on the proposed burying of Hammersmith Flyover, opted for the longest possible distance underground in the borough, from Hogarth Roundabout in the west to Earl’s Court in the east, thus neatly proving that the public really doesn’t like urban motorways.  The first option we examined, direct replacement on the same line with a cut and cover tunnel, clearly doesn’t meet this aspiration for the public, but what of the other option?  This is the one we’ve discussed before, the long bored tunnel from Chiswick to Earl’s Court.  The position of the western tunnel portal is more settled in the Geotechnical Report:

The horizontal alignment of the tunnels, from the western portal 450m west of Sutton Court Road, follows the A4 towards Hogarth Roundabout

That’s a bit further west than I’d originally thought, with the start of the ramps around Harvard Hill, next to a prep school and in a thoroughly well to do middle class area.  There’s a listed building, Little Sutton Cottage, 16th century, just by the portal ramps and right where any road widening would have to be carried out to fit the ramp down and roads round the outside to carry any residual surface traffic.  On the other side of the road we have the former Dairy Crest site currently being developed with a three storey Porsche after sales centre butted right up against the main road.  I can see the cranes from here.  The gap between the cottage and the new centre is about 40m, which has an access road, six lanes of A4 and a shared cycle/footpath leading to a subway in it, so fitting about eight lanes of road in there is not going to work.

There’s more room at the eastern end where the road widens around Warwick Road/Earls Court Road, to enable drivers to turn right and get stuck in Earl’s Court Road.

The options discussion has this to say on the long tunnnels:

More expensive than central Hammersmith options however, and traffic use will be limited to non-local traffic that will still have to use the existing roads. Air qualities at portals are an issue, and construction disruption at portals. The open space in Barnes, currently playing fields, would be temporarily lost during construction. The major construction disruption for this option will be focused around the portal locations which will have sections of Open Cut (220m) and Cut and Cover (225m) at each portal, in addition to this the TBM will need to exit the tunnel and be turned during construction at the portal locations which will cause greater disruption to traffic movements.

[3a] may have even less traffic than 2a, as it won’t take traffic from the North End Road area.

This is the acknowledgment of what we’d suggested previously – the longer the tunnel the higher the cost and the more surface road you have to provide for traffic that isn’t travelling from one end of the tunnel to the other.  The feasibility study also realised this:

This is a fundamental finding as traffic that joins the A4 between the start and end points of a tunnel between Chiswick and Earl’s Court will have to use a surface network. Should the flyover be removed, it would be diverted around the Hammersmith Gyratory.

Any capacity increases that can be achieved at the Hammersmith Gyratory, even if possible, would not be consistent with the vision for the improved town centre.

Here lies the flaw at the heart of the council’s loudly trumpeted public consultation – they’re pretending the public want the flyover gone when in reality they want the traffic gone.  The council, and TfL, won’t look traffic restraint in the face and therefore have to work within TfL’s barmy 14% rise in traffic to 2031 and try and find an option that satisfies both requirements.  They haven’t found one.

The short option, leaving the A4 unaltered outside the immediate town centre, is clearly unattractive to the public plus the central area still handles all the traffic that currently comes off the A4, plus whatever rise TfL put in.  The engineers are clear that cut-and-covering the A4 alone is not enough to deliver the town centre plans:

The on-line replacement of the flyover is a much cheaper option, albeit with a lot of disruption during construction. Together with the proposed remodelling of the gyratory system, this would provide the main benefits in central Hammersmith, with an open plaza between the Apollo Theatre and St Pauls church, and the opportunity for redevelopment in the central area. The downside would be that the Talgarth Road east and west [sic] of central Hammersmith would remain as it is at present.

On the long option the geotechnical report is fairly clear it just won’t work:

Surveys of the public have determined that the most popular end points for a tunnel would be between Earls Court and Sutton Park [sic] Road, i.e. option 3. However it is by no means certain whether options 2a or 3a (two lanes without junctions) would cater for sufficient traffic to enable Talgarth Road to be reduced to a lightly trafficked single carriageway. An unintended result may also be a greater volume of traffic on the gyratory. On the other hand options 2b and 3b (3 lane tunnel with junctions), while likely to divert the majority of traffic away from Talgarth Road, is considerably more expensive, not just because of the larger diameter, but because of the junctions, which involve significant lengths of disruptive open-cut and cut and cover, in populated areas.

In Hammersmith town centre the proposed master-planning, assumed to be implemented for all options, involves the closure of part of the gyratory, and a return to bi-directional traffic. While the traffic details are not known, it is considered that this remodelling will reduce the traffic capacity of the gyratory system significantly

In brief, then, the whole scheme falls down unless you reduce traffic entering the gyratory sufficiently to be able to return it to two-way working and take some of the land it currently uses to create a quality urban environment.  This cannot be achieved within TfL’s projected traffic rise as there doesn’t appear to be an engineering solution on the table that reconciles even existing levels of traffic with this aspiration.  The council is therefore lying to its constituents by pretending that all that’s needed is a tunnel and removal of the flyover – they need to remove most of the traffic and half the gyratory before that becomes a feasible option, and if you can manage that you can easily manage without the ‘flyunder’ completely.


Given how it was snuck out at 5:34pm on St. Patrick’s day it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that only one media outlet picked up on the production of four chunky documents on Hammersmith & Fulham’s website – Londonist did a slightly pro piece on the 18th but other than that most of the press stuck with their Boris based piece from the 3rd March which as we saw yesterday wasn’t based on the final documentation which was created over a week later.

If you’re thinking they’ve got something to hide, you’d be right.  Let’s look at the four documents:

  1. the Feasibility Study – this is obviously based on the draft study published on the 12th February that prompted my original blogging, but tarted up with some CGI and a lot of guff
  2. the Masterplanning report – what the architects want it to look like, and damn the engineering (apparently there’s GLA involvement in here somewhere)
  3. the Geotechnical Study - a weighty 114 pages of detailed engineering analysis from CH2M-Hill Halcrow, who did the original 1988 London roads plans and presumably dusted a lot of that off
  4. the Economic Impact Assessment – aka ‘the one I haven’t read yet’, but considering it’s from Hammersmith’s Business Improvement District I expect it to be 99% horseshit

First off, the feasibility study cans option 2, the long tunnel from Chiswick to North End Road, although it doesn’t explain why.  The geotechnical study had actually come up with six options, a no-junction and junction option of each of the original 3:

  • 1a – Direct on-route burial of the flyover
  • 1b  - Same as 1a, with a crossing tunnel taking Fulham Palace Road underground round Hammersmith and up Shepherd’s Bush Road
  • 2a – Chiswick to Earl’s Court bored tunnel with cut and cover portions at each end, crossing under the river through the north of Barnes and back under the river south of the current flyover
  • 2b – Same as 2a, with junctions west to the A316 and east to Fulham Palace Road
  • 3a – Chiswick to Earl’s Court bored tunnel with cut and cover portions at each end, crossing under the river through the north of Barnes and back under the river south of the current flyover
  • 3b – Same as 3a, with junctions west to the A316 and east to Fulham Palace Road

Of these only 1a and 3a are in the feasibility study.





No reason is given for jettisoning the other four options, although the junctioned ones are excessively costly, the N-S tunnel is stated as not actually doing anything for traffic flow and option 2 is merely a form of option 3 with more disruption within Hammersmith.

Notably none of the options actually matches what LBHF’s survey claims the public actually backed.  A quick look at the punters’ choice shows the following choices for the west portal:

  • 4% support for starting out past M4 J2 in Brentford
  • 3% support for starting at M4 J2
  • 7% support for starting at Chiswick Roundabout
  • 39% support for starting at Hogarth Roundabout
  • 1% support for starting at Hammersmith Town Hall

While for the eastern portal the choices were:

  • The Ark (basically the current flyover end) – 6%
  • Baron’s Court – 7%
  • North End Road – 7%
  • Warwick Road – 22%
  • Hyde Park Corner – 1%

It’s fairly clear therefore that the public survey showed a strong preference for a tunnel from Hogarth Roundabout to Earl’s Court, undergrounding the road for the entire borough.  This explains the bizarre obsession with the long tunnel option 3a, which runs from Sutton Court Road to Earl’s Court.  Why start so far west of Hogarth Roundabout?  Well, as it turns out the architects with their CGI and whizziness weren’t much good at engineering, as the geotechnical survey points out:

The tunnel must have a minimum of one tunnel diameter cover when underneath the Thames; this requires a depth of 36m below the level of the river bed (approximately 6m below ground level (bgl)). Therefore the portal must be a minimum distance of 900m to comply with 4% maximum gradient.

So the portal has to be a long way west of the river crossing.  The alternative, presumably, would be a long detour round the river bank to the north, with a distinct lack of places to use in order to launch tunnel boring machines and pull the muck out of – it helps to have a big piece of empty land.  Halcrow have selected the playing fields of St. Paul’s School in Barnes, which should help the Olympic legacy and means you can probably use barges to cart most of it away, but which also means the tunnel needs to cross the Thames twice, which in turn pushes the portal well west into the middle of Chiswick.  So far, so silly.

Option 1a, on the other hand, is essentially from Hammersmith Town Hall to Baron’s Court, which has at most 1% support amongst the public, with a strong dislike being expressed for the Town Hall as a starting point.  Why start there, then?  Well, it turns out the architects with the CGI and yada yada…

…the length and position of the portals is governed predominantly by the required depth and gradient of the tunnel. The western Open Cut begins 340m from the start of the west Flyover ramp…

In short: due to the need to dive down to get under the London Underground while not tunnelling so far west that the economic case goes out of the window, they’ve unfortunately come up with a location for the western portal that neatly ruins the entire case for the project with the public, who seem to have a total antipathy to any surface trunk roads in the vicinity, and who can blame them?  Worse is to come – far from removing severance, there already is a crossing point at the Town Hall, a subway which is also cyclable, which would be removed and replaced by a 230m long gash with four lanes of traffic in it, forcing anyone from the Town Hall heading for Furnivall Gardens to detour round the eastern end of the trench.  There would also need to be a lane either side for the substantial traffic coming off the A4 and heading for Hammersmith.  My rather shaky art skills suggest that would look a bit like this:

WesternPortalSmall1aHmm.  Doesn’t look much like the artist’s impression, which has a distinct lack of great honking concrete trench full of noise and pollution across the front of the Town Hall:


Turning to the eastern end of Option 1a the geotechnical document says:

The eastern Open Cut is 360m from the start of the east Flyover ramp; this point on Talgarth Road also has 3 lanes in each direction allowing space for the portal and a lane in each direction for traffic. The portals will consist of an open cut section from the current road level and leading to a depth of the portal approximately 270m. The current roadway is limited in width and the open cut will take the majority of the roadway and is likely to cause disruption to traffic.

Let’s put some visuals around that, shall we?:

EasternPortalSmall1aYes, that’s right, this time the trench fans have put it neatly across Gliddon Road, which is currently a through route from Fulham to Hammersmith, but is now severed by your severance removing scheme.  Furthermore, that’s Baron’s Court tube station in the lower centre, which is now neatly cut off from Hammersmith Road (to the north) and Hammersmith, Ealing and West London College. When I last had to use that crossing in the evening rush hour it was rammed.  So, more severance here too.  Oh dear.  Naturally the council’s image seems to be a completely different scheme, showing the portal a good way west of where it really is, with unrealistically steep ramps and no road down from the gyratory to join the A4 eastbound, which is also at odds with the Masterplan:


So, that’s Option 1a for you.  In the next instalments of this thrilling saga of spivs versus engineers we’ll examine Option 3a in similar fashion and then go on to look at whether the finances stack up (they don’t, despite what Boris said).  We’ll also reveal what the real point of this exercise is, so stay tuned.