All it takes is a bit of snow and Boris lets the inner petrolhead loose. First off, no bendy buses are running. Can we declare that part of the manifesto commitment met, now, and move on?
ALL ROUTES IN THE LONDON AREA: Most London Buses services are not operating due to adverse weather conditions. Reduced services are operating on Routes 6 9 16 19 20 21 23 34 36 59 60 76 79 83 92 94 98 109 113 115 117 126 136 140 155 159 160 162 164 171 182 186 208 219 233 237 266 286 370 427 428 492 607 E8 RV1 U4
Secondly, the Congestion Charge is suspended today, thus sending out the clear message that getting people back into cars is more important (or makes better headlines) than working out why on earth TfL took every single bus off the roads last night and making sure a proper plan is in place for tomorrow. Naturally, since media outlets and government bodies *apart from City Hall* has been strongly discouraging car use, this is quite definitely Boris going alone. How alone? What about this:
“The biggest difficulty today is the road conditions which are extremely dangerous and drivers should take extreme care.
That was TfL, prop. Boris Johnson, who said:
‘The safety of the city and its inhabitants is my overriding concern. I urge Londoners to check on elderly neighbours and others who are vulnerable in these freezing temperatures.”
The roads are extremely dangerous, so why not get in your car, because your safety is my overriding concern? Perhaps TfL can enlighten us?:
In light of the further snow falls expected this afternoon, TfL is advising passengers to leave plenty of time for their journeys and, where possible, to stagger their travel home through-out this afternoon.
Coherent message, anyone? Is he trying to get us killed? Or could this be related to TfL’s line that lack of gritting on some council operated roads prevented buses operating? Boris did mention something about ’12 ton buses slipping on the ice’. Christian Wolmar disagrees, citing H&S over-cautiousness. However, I can tell you that it’s chucking it down now and it’s going to continue chucking it down all evening, so is suspending the CC really *that* important, Boris? Not got anything better to do, what with the worst weather for 18 years, two Tube lines still shut and most bus routes off the road, and another morning of the same to come?
As a matter of historical interest, here is TfL’s advice from 2005 to compare and contrast. It’ll be interesting if they learnt from that and put something similar into action today. It’ll also be interesting to see how the boroughs performed – the split in gritting responsibility between TfL and the boroughs I don’t think helps – you can’t run a proper bus service if part of the route needs gritting but responsibility lies in a different political system. There are reports that some boroughs (Barnet and Hammersmith & Fulham I’ve seen mentioned) didn’t do as good a job as others. For instance, in Hounslow, I can report things weren’t too bad despite none of the schools being open and some already announcing closure tomorrow – I’m expecting another day with child in residence. However, a lot of buses (190, 391, H91, 267, 27) go from Hounslow’s gritted streets along King Street in Hammersmith, which apparently wasn’t gritted. Notably the 237, which turns off at that point, was one of the first back in service round here. So did LBHF fall down on the job where other councils without the tax-cutting mania did a better job? Maybe one for Stephen Cowan’s Report. As for Barnet, the jury’s out, but they did make a song and dance over their preparations last October, so it’s not like they don’t have the kit. LBHF seem to be seriously under-equipped. [update - the Standard is actually on the case here - Hammersmith wouldn't give them a quote!]
There is, however, virtually no congestion, since most people have stayed at home (cyclists, apparently, are enjoying the conditions – Boris himself is reported to have got in on two wheels) and there’s no school run, so regardless of switching the CC on or off it probably makes little or no difference. The difference it would make would presumably be in the direction of encouraging more cars to go out on the roads in falling snow and fading light, however, and I’m not sure what that does for London’s economy other than bolster Boris’s Churchill complex.
Meanwhile, buried in the drifts, Dave Hill reports that Boris is responding to the recession, when everyone from the Green Party to Barack Obama is urging a green New Deal, by encouraging pollution from road vehicles. The snow has evidently had another effect – washing off the thin coat of green he applied a few months back, revealing the Tory dinosaur beneath. The message from City Hall is becoming rather clearer – no to regulation, no to responsibility towards the planet, screw public transport, up the motorist, let’s-not-be-beastly-to-the-bankers. Is it any wonder we think the Green Boris honeymoon may well be over? What does Isobel Dedring think? Surely, as an American, a position with Obama might be a better use of her talents than attempting to advise a Mayor whose heart clearly isn’t in it?
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