Yes, ha ha, very English, muddle through, make a joke, pretend everything’s fine. Well, everything is not fine with the WrightBus New Bus For London.

You can use the word “iconic” as often as you like – it doesn’t change the fact that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has inflicted upon London a new bus which is utterly unable to cope with temperatures above, say, 18°C.

16 March 2012: Boris Johnson lavishes fulsome praise on his vanity project, declaring it to have, amongst other fantastic attributes:

amazing new air conditioning

June 2013: The first production models of the bus enter service on route 24. Reports of vehicles frequently breaking down and passengers complain about the high temperatures on the buses and lack of ventilation.

3 July 2013: TfL claim to BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards that:

heat problems on top deck of New Bus on route 24 are fixed

8 July 2013: Boris Johnson declares that the unacceptable temperatures on the bus were merely a teething problem which has been rectified.

This is simply a teething problem and I’ve spoken to several people who said they had a fine, a fantastic experience on, er, I know there’ve been some people who’ve had Bikram Yoga-type experiences, you know, obviously we’re sorry for that.

There was a technical problem which has been rectified.

10 July 2013: Transport for London Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, takes Thomas Heatherwick, the designer of the New Bus For London, for a spin on an empty bus, armed with a thermometer. Hendy declares that the temperature issue was nothing to do with the lack of opening windows and was merely a manufacturing and operating failure which has now been fixed by the manufacturers:

We found that the new bus, when the cooling is working properly, is cooler than the equivalent latest ordinary bus.

Wright’s [the Northern Ireland bus manufacturer] have fixed all the buses on the 24 and are now checking the ones on the 38 and fixing those too.

It’s not a political issue, nor is it a fundamental design failure, and it’s nothing to do with a lack of opening windows; it’s a manufacturing and operating failure which has been fixed by Wrights.

19 July 2013: Passengers on the New Bus For London still complain that it is like travelling on a sauna. Grayson Thermal Systems announce that they have been commissioned by WrightBus to fix the problems with the air conditioning system on the New Bus For London. Those problems which Boris Johnson had claimed had been rectified nearly a fortnight earlier. Those same problems which Sir Peter Hendy subsequently claimed had been fixed by manufacturer WrightBus:

Grayson Thermal Systems is proud to have been commissioned by Wrightbus to fix the problems that Transport for London (TfL) is having with the air conditioning systems on some of its new Routemaster buses.

Grayson service director Ian Hateley said: “Grayson did not supply the air conditioning systems that were installed on the “Boris Buses”, but nonetheless we are able to offer a full diagnostic and repair service. We have a large number of service vans and trained technicians based in the London area, and we are geared up to offer a fast and responsive emergency service.

“It’s a real shame that the current hot weather has led to problems with these great new buses, but we are confident that Grayson will be able to take the heat out of the situation quickly and efficiently.”

5 September 2013: Buses still breaking down. Passengers still complain of unbearably hot temperatures inside the buses. I record a temperature of 32.5°C on both the lower and upper decks of a number 24 bus.

And today, almost a year on from the first production models going into service on route 24?

The new buses are now running on routes 9, 10, 11, 24, 38, 148 and 390. The weather in London over the past few days has been around 20°C and passengers have, again, been complaining that the New Bus For London is like a sauna. Two days ago, I recorded temperatures of 29.4°C on one of the latest batch of new buses on route 148.

Summer is coming. The weather will get hotter. The inability of the New Bus For London to cope with normal spring/summer temperatures must surely be an inherent design flaw, not some “teething problem” that Boris Johnson and various employees of Transport for London repeatedly claimed to have been “fixed” – Londoners deserve better than this.

A brand new bespoke bus, designed and manufactured at great expense, just for Boris Johnson. Claimed to have “amazing new air conditioning” yet temperatures inside the bus have exceeded those at which it is legal to transport animals.

When is Boris Johnson going to admit to us that his new bus is not as described and cancel the remainder of his order of 600 vehicles with WrightBus?


It’s definitely back to normal warm-weather operations for Boris Johnson’s Heatherwick-designed sauna-on-wheels:

The bus has also acquired a new talent – car crushing:

I travelled on one of the buses from Zone 1 to Hammersmith this afternoon but I was thermometer-free today so can only report that the upstairs was stuffy and airless and the constant smell of plasticky fumes nausea-inducing.

However, I did have a chat with a TfL Revenue Protection Inspector who informed me that inspections haven’t been carried out after 10pm on TfL bus services for around the past four years. That’s one way to make the fare evasion figures look good. This has resulted in a loss of income for the Inspectors as the night shift meant enhanced payments. I remarked that this was unfair, as the “conductors” on the three-doored buses were being paid for standing around and not doing very much.

“Health and safety. Health and safety – that’s all they’re there for” responded the Revenue Protection Inspector. Odd, as only yesterday TfL refuted the assertion that the back doors of these particular vehicles are closed between stops when a “conductor” is not present to prevent passengers boarding and alighting between stops.

Boris Johnson has previously claimed that the vehicle’s “dwell time” is reduced as three doors instead of two mean that it is quicker to load and unload at bus stops. Not true, as I observed yesterday on route 148. When the bus runs with just a driver, the back door does not fully open at bus stops – the rearmost part of it, opposite the stairs, remains shut at all times. This means that passengers descending the rear stairs to alight have to fight with any passengers leaving the lower saloon of the bus for “half” an exit – passengers from upstairs and downstairs cannot get off the bus simultaneously.

So, passengers from upstairs have to wait for the passengers from downstairs to get off first and people who want to get on the bus through the back door have to wait until both lots of passengers have alighted before they can get on. I fail to see how this decreases the time the vehicle spends at stops – in fact, quite the opposite.

As I was last in the queue to board through the rear door yesterday afternoon, I also experienced the rear door almost closing on me as there is very little room on the rear “platform” (much less than on a Routemaster). I note that many of the TfL buses I use in outer London have exit doors which part and slide open on the outside of the bus – they do not fold back awkwardly into the exit as on the Heatherwick-designed bus.


As reported by passengers yesterday, the latest batch of New Bus For London (or New Routemaster, as TfL now insist on calling the things) is unpleasantly hot and stuffy.

I boarded LT143 on route 148 at White City Bus Station at 1:26pm today. As the bus only had a couple of passengers onboard and hadn’t really got going yet, the temperature upstairs was “only” 23.2°C:
By the time I alighted at Westminster Cathedral, the temperature had reached 25.3°C:
Hot and stuffy, yes, and the horrible, stifling, plasticky smell present, but just about bearable.

LT126 on route 148 that I then boarded in the opposite direction, however, was another matter.

Fairly full upstairs, it *was* like a sauna – people were fanning themselves and a dog appeared to have died from heat exhaustion. 26°C:
By the penultimate stop before White City Bus Station it was 28.6°C upstairs:
Bad enough, but I decided to go downstairs and test the temperature on the back seat where the “conductor” would stand on a crewed bus – the 148 is driver only.

It was 29.4°C:

I’ve no doubt that if I’d been downstairs in that seat for more than one stop that the thermometer would have climbed to 30°C or more. To those who have theorised that the “air cooling” works better on these vehicles when all the doors are shut between stops – evidently not.

Boris Johnson has committed to purchasing a total of 600 of these vehicles for use on bus routes in London so more and more Londoners will be subjected to these horrible travelling conditions. I feel very sorry for those whose local bus routes will be using these vehicles – temperatures in London are bound to rise further in the summer, so how will they cope and, more importantly, what are TfL and its Chair, Boris Johnson, going to do about it?


A high of only 18°C in London today, yet we have reports that the New Bus For London, supposedly cured of its heat-exhaustion-inducing, sauna-like internal temperatures, is back to its old tricks:

The brand new buses on route 148 are part of the latest batch of vehicles so there’s no excuse whatsoever for the air cooling system not working. London’s temperature is forecast to soar to 23°C by the weekend so, fret ye not, Commissioner Hendy, I’ve got my thermometer ready.

As more and more routes are converted to running this overweight, under-capacity, badly-designed vehicle, Londoners are beginning to realise that the whole project has been a big con.

As I witnessed first-hand almost a year ago, the main purpose of the passenger assistant/customer assistant is to stop passengers falling out of the open back door.

Perhaps we all need a reminder of the sage words of the then-Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, who has since returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Transport:

London Buses
HC Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc755-62 755

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

…I am aware that some people still prefer to use the old Routemaster buses with their open platform entry, but buses with doors are much safer. The chances of a passenger having a serious accident getting on or off a bus are roughly 11 times greater on an open-platform bus.

As evidenced by an exchange on Twitter today:

Expect more of this sort of thing, too:


Yet another cyclist lost their life in London today, at the notorious Elephant and Castle roundabout, described as welcoming and safe by TfL in 2010 and by Boris Johnson in 2011 as fine. If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable“. Just hours after this fatality, another cyclist was taken to hospital after being hit by a tipper truck in the City of London.

No word from London’s part-time Mayor on today’s cyclist death and injury, as, not content with electioneering in London boroughs, he spent today in Gloucestershire, where he sheared a sheep, “side-stepped questions about him possibly running in the Cotswolds” informed the people of Cirencester how he encourages cycling in London, discussed the local South West issues:

and also visited Cheltenham, where he got the name of the Conservative candidate wrong in his TV interview. Working hard for London, then, by spending the whole day in Gloucestershire, campaigning for Gloucestershire Conservatives. Oh, and emailing members of the electorate to tell them to vote Conservative in the forthcoming European elections:



Also working hard for London, on the payroll of the GLA, was Will Walden, the Mayor of London’s Director of Communications and External Affairs. Here he is in Gloucestershire today, behind the Mayor of London:

Can we take it that Walden was on holiday today, accompanying Boris Johnson out of the kindness of his heart, or was he electioneering for the Conservative Party, his day’s wages and travel being paid for by Londoners?


One thing that we’re sure of, when Boris attaches himself to some whizzy innovation, it’ll usually end up costing a fortune in public money and suffering a variety of easily predictable snags caused by overconfidence and arrogance.  To a list that includes cycle hire, cable cars, Lardbuses, electric cars, etc. etc. we can probably load up our traditional quill pens and start scratching in the name of the West London Free School.

Opened, by Boris, in 2011 with the promises of lashings of Latin, classical liberal education (whatever the hell that is) and discipline this establishment seems never really to have settled down – the first Head, Thomas Packer, was kicked upstairs to become Education Director at the start of 2013 and shortly afterwards left completely, accompanied by an FoI request from Helen:

Both Thomas Packer and Janet Packer left the employment of the Trust on 31 August 2013. Thomas Packer’s responsibilities changed from being Headmaster of the West London Free School to being Education Director of the Trust between 1 January 2013 and 31 August 2013.  Janet Packer’s salary was varied whilst employed by the Trust.

He was succeeded by Deputy Headmaster Sam Naismith (who personally signed off the FoI, I note).  This gentleman is noteworthy for a lack of senior leadership experience, never having run a school, merely having been Director of Sport at Langley School for Boys in Bromley.  He’s also notable for having hired straight from university a sporty young man called Sam Druce who’d been a pupil of his whose LinkedIn profile reads:

Headmaster’s Office/ sports coach

West London Free School


My principal duty is managing and maintaining the image of the Headmaster and the school. This involves liaising with governors and staff on a day-to-day basis as well as school events management. I schedule and oversee the Headmaster’s diary in order to respond to the changing demands of each day. Within my role, I update and maintain the contracts for all staff and all policies for the school. I am responsible for the organisation and management of the school budget; working closely with the Business Manager and respective Subject Leaders. I lead sport in the P.E. Department, and am the Head of Hockey for Y7 girls, and Y8 boys. Balancing these two roles requires excellent time management and effective prioritisation of tasks.

Do they really let 24 year olds manage school budgets?

Druce’s Twitter account @sdruce17 is sadly protected, so we only have occasional mentions to go on. Such as this one, which was surely was made up by his mates as a jolly good bit of banter:


Headmaster Sam Naismith left abruptly last week with no warning, the deletion of his LinkedIn profile and no explanation from Toby Young, who is not normally this shy.  Cat got your tongue?  Or a lawyer?

All this, plus local rumour (heard from three sources) of high staff turnover and unhappy parents has led me to have a good look at their arrangements, and it appears they also have some site and building issues.  This isn’t rare in the Free School movement, particularly in London where property is insanely expensive and Free School proponents often rather naive and optimistic when dealing with estate agents and other sharks.  Toby’s original plans to open in Ealing, where he lives, were stymied when they couldn’t find a site and the council, having been the subject of regular Toby smears against their mostly perfectly decent schools, refused to help.  Toby’s ideological fellow-travellers, the libertorians at Hammersmith and Fulham were only too glad to help. So it came about that this pioneering school, set up free from the shackles of local authorities, has been liberally provided with help by a local authority, including the run of the Town Hall when setting up – the address to write to for Headmaster applicants was Hammersmith and Fulham Town Hall.

The council duly helped out with sites including an old special school of 1960s vintage on Cambridge Grove (forcing the incumbent Cambridge School to shift north to a site apparently rejected by the precious WLFS lot), and Palingswick House, a nice but unlisted Victorian pile on King Street.  This latter was formerly occupied by volunteer groups, immigrant help charities and similar riff-raff who were promptly kicked out in February 2012, with the council coughing up a fairly miserly £330k in ‘compensation’.  The net worth of the site, of course, is considerably higher than that, although the actual figure raised is curiously hard to find…

The original intention was that, having got planning permission in 2012, a relatively short building period would see the first kids transferring to Palingswick in time for opening in September 2013 – this LBHF webpage says precisely that:

The school is currently located at the former Cambridge School site on Cambridge Grove in Hammersmith and is due to move to its permanent site, Palingswick House on King Street in 2013.

They haven’t. The current pupil population are all on the Cambridge Grove site, to which we have to add the new WLFS Primary, 60 kids starting Reception in 2013.  That’s added to 120 2011 intake Y7 and presumably the same again in 2012 and 2013 for a total of 360 Y7/8/9.  Are they really squashing 420 kids into that site?  And why haven’t the 360 secondary kids decamped to Palingswick yet?  And why has the Trust spent an eye-watering £9.25m buying a recently refurbished and extended office block further along King St.?

It’s time to find out what’s going on here, and the council’s online planning archive is a rich source of all sorts of interesting stuff.   First, Cambridge Grove – note that the 420 figure is also what you get with a seven year 2FE primary school (Years R123456).  The Primary website, in between plugging Toby Young’s books, says:

The plans include building a new five-classroom annex to the rear of the current site, bordering Banim Street and extending some classrooms to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage.”

The planning documents concur, with the following approved 13/3/2013:

“Erection of a two storey classroom building (south west corner of site); erection of three single storey extensions and a refuse storage block at ground floor level; erection of a single storey link block at ground floor level; erection of two extensions at first floor level (including one fronting Banim Street); erection of, and alterations to, fencing within school grounds, in connection with the continued use of the premises as a school.”

To sum up: they’re extending the existing 1960s building with three rooms added to the existing structure and a pair of Reception classrooms on part of the playground.

However, in addition a planning application 2013/01902/FUL was made dated May 2013 for three portable classrooms on the playground.  This mentions:

The proposed development involves the erection of three temporary classrooms, in a single temporary portakabin along with reconfiguration of the grounds to encompass this. The purpose of
this application is to allow the school to continue in the eventuality that the programme of annexe works overruns into term time. The lawful planning use of the site is as a school (D1). The school will have an eventual roll of 420 pupils (2 form-entry primary). It is proposed that the temporary classrooms be for a strictly limited period.

So this was a contingency in case the main works overran.   This appears to have come to pass, as the school website says:

For the current academic year 2013-2014, the primary will be housed in its temporary site on Bradmore Park Road and will move into its permanent home in Cambridge Grove in September 2014.

What? Where?  From the planning documents:

As a contingency while the permanent annexe is being constructed, the primary school pupils will occupy the Bradmore Centre, with the 360 secondary school pupils being placed in Cambridge Grove. The existing buildings allow eleven classrooms along with the temporary conversion of the library which along with the three additional classrooms allow the new years intake to occur should the annexe building not be completed in time

All of which probably explains a local parent’s comment a few months back to me that the library at WLFS is smaller than our primary’s library.

What’s this Bradmore Park Road building, then?  The Primary’s website’s contact address until July 2014 is:

32 Bradmore Park Road


W6 0DT

This is the address of the Bradmore Children’s Centre, owned by, yes, the council again.  Three sites now.  Hang on.  Wasn’t Palingswick House supposed to be finished by 2013?  What’s going on?

The Palingswick plans were announced in this school blog (full of praise for the ‘Conservative Council’, who just turfed out all those community groups) on 14th June 2012, with a link to a blog post called ‘palingswick-house.html’. This is now deleted, the only blog post existing at the time that is no longer on the site. Wayback Machine might have it?  Yup.

Palingswick House

I am delighted to report that, after a long delay, the builders have moved onto the Palingswick House site and will start demolition of the annex shortly. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll start to see a lot of activity around the King Street site as it is extended and refurbished so it can become our permanent home. It has been a long journey, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Sam Naismith, Headmaster

Why delete it?  Why no explanation of the ‘long delay’?  Well, subsequent to that yet another planning application 2014/00963/FUL  has gone in, this time for yet more portable classrooms, this time at Palingswick. They’re whoppers, too – a double-height portable in the front yard of the building housing 240 pupils:


The goal is to redevelop the site to use as a secondary school; the current proposal is renovate the Lodge building and provide new two storey temporary Portacabin classrooms until a full remediation strategy can be agreed.

In order to meet the Schools proposed opening date we are planning to commence site construction activities as early as possible following a successful Planning application

The proposed development involves placement of a two storey portakabin on site to provide 9 classrooms to accommodate 240 pupils for 1 academic year (2014/15). The accommodation is needed to enable the development of the scheme granted permission on the 17 December 2012 under application reference 2012/02503/FUL.

Remediation strategy? That suggests that they’ve found something unexpected during the refurbishment or demolition which is going to delay completion of the main building.  Since the temporary 9 classroom installation is a 16 week project involving removing three trees whatever’s come up is potentially serious and possibly expensive.  In addition this new portable occupies the site previously identified as the main entrance for construction traffic, the site offices, fuel stores, waste disposal areas and COSHH store and one of the two bases for cranes:


This application went in at the beginning of March and has not yet been approved – if the school is to open on site in September 2014 the latest construction can start is around the beginning of June, so they really need that approval sharpish.  As a mark of how far things have slipped the original project schedule is on one of the documents and shows site work starting in July 2012 and continuing to completion at the end of August 2013, just in time for last September’s intake.  They therefore seem to have started work when they should have finished it, about 14 months late so even if it doesn’t now slip any further it’ll be October 2014 before it’s ready, presuming that having a portable school blocking one of the entrances doesn’t mean a total recast of the project timelines (it will, I’m certain of it, the contractor isn’t an idiot).

With the 9 classroom portable in place the school would obviously only be able to hold 240 pupils, or two of the three years currently at Cambridge Grove. The delay also means we have another 120 Y7s to cope with in September 2014 for a total of 4*120 = 480 pupils across Y7-10, so where do the other 240 go?  Tim Fenton has the answer:

the WLFS has just committed to blowing a sum in excess of £9 million – you read that right – of taxpayers’ money acquiring a recently refurbished office building in Hammersmith that is definitely not Palingswick House.

Yes, faced with having nowhere to put 240 13-15 year olds Toby Young, who continually lectures us on the evils of public spending, has conjured up £9.25m of public money from somewhere (us) to buy an office block, 2 Bridge Avenue, thereby neatly driving up office prices and crowding out the private sector in an already tough area for business to find accommodation.  Very Stalinist, Toby.

This acquisition has naturally resulted in yet another raft of planning documents, which give an insight into the latest iteration of the school’s ever changing accommodation plan:

The application would enable WLFS to use the building initially, between September 2014 and July 2015, for education accommodation for 240 Secondary School pupils aged 13 and 15 (years 9 and 10). From September 2015 it is proposed for the site to be used as permanent accommodation for 240 Secondary School pupils likely to be aged 14 and 16 (years 10 and 11). It is understood that there would be no more than 240 pupils occupying the site at any one time.

Summing up, the current state of play appears to be:


  •   360 Y7/8/9 in Cambridge Grove, which is being extended for a 420 place 2FE primary
  • 60 R in Bradmore Children’s Centre
  • 0 in Palingswick House


  • 240 Y7/8 in a temporary two storey portakabin in the front yard of Palingswick House
  • 240 Y9/10 in an expensive converted office block at Bridge Avenue
  • 60 Reception and 60 Year 1 at Cambridge Grove, possibly, depending on how the building work goes there


  • 360 Y7/8/9 at Palingswick House
  • 240 Y10/11 at Bridge Avenue
  • 60 Reception and 120 Y1/2 at Cambridge Grove

Clear?  One thing that stands out there is that Palingswick House is somewhat underused, given that it was presumably meant to be a 600 pupil capacity school.  The Travel Plan for the original application actually says 360 pupils, but that’s the figure on opening in September 2013 so it’s not conclusive, and the four storey block proposed for the site is surely enough for 600.  The LBHF puff piece for the planning approval agrees:

West London Free School, which is currently based in Cambridge Grove, Hammersmith, will turn Palingswick House in King Street into a new 4,300 square metre school for 600 pupils, aged 11-16.

So what’s changed such that 240 of them have to be moved permanently to a hugely expensive building down the road, duplicating things like kitchen facilities and complicating staff rostering to allow for what is a fair old walk between sites?  For that matter, why does the March 2014 application for the temporary classroom still give the building’s owner as ‘Hammersmith and Fulham’…

Palingswick_Ownership…when the 2012 S.106 agreement states, referring to the West London Free School Academy Trust:

‘The Owner has agreed to purchase the Site from the Council’

Why was the S.106 agreement signed only by Toby Young, with no countersignature by another Director or the Company Secretary, merely a ‘witness’ called Grant Berry?



Why do I keep finding new questions, but no answers?

P.S. A handy website gives a list of known DfE funding to WLFS:

  • £472,881.05 pre-opening (secondary)
  • £1,012,000.00 agreed post-opening (secondary)
  • £708,000.00 actual post-opening (secondary)
  • £220,000.00 pre-opening (primary)
  • £373,000.00 agreed post-opening (primary)
  • £95,500.00 actual post-opening (primary)

We can presumably add several hefty capital sums for the various portable classrooms, rebuilds, office blocks.  Now, how can we go about finding those out?  Ah, there’s a site giving finalised capex up to the middle of 2013.  Which has no entry for WLFS, one of the first to open and with, as we’ve seen, considerable capital investment going on. That’s amusing.


Helen’s been out and about looking for new No. 10 lardbuses and has found one – the weight is now down a bit further to 12190kg, suggesting they’re eking out very small gains (the previous two weights were 12220 and 12230kg).

Meanwhile the not at all vanity B5LH Euro 6 revamp is apparently 11265kg and Alexander Dennis have finally unwrapped their very interesting new Enviro 400 model which again majors in weight saving and has a lot of anti-Lardbus advertising about how it was designed with the industry for the industry.  Since they’re claiming to have sold 400 while the Lardbus has sold only to the people who own the design and can force the operators to run them whether or not they want to, there’s some backing evidence on that point.  It remains to be seen what the weight’s likely to be on this – current E400H models seem to be around 11,900 and ADL claim a 400kg cut so this will presumably be around 11500kg, about three-quarters of a tonne less than the Lardbus and with more seats.


Boris Johnson continues to delight us with his cornucopia of totally true, honest facts which, no doubt, one of his Bullingdon mates told him whilst they were setting fire to £50 notes in front of tramps. His latest gem appears in a megalomania-indulging piece of sycophantic adoration from Total Politics:

…it’s tragic we have protest groups talking about ‘this ancient woodland’ when actually there’s no tree in this country that’s more than 200 years old.

Eton-and-Oxford-educated Boris Johnson says so, so it must be true. Let us bow to his expensive education and superior knowledge. We must’ve imagined that famous tree in Sherwood Forest:

The Major Oak is a Quercus Robur, the English or pendunculate oak.

This forest veteran is a huge oak tree thought to be around 800 years old. In a 2002 survey, it was voted “Britain’s favourite tree”.

Obviously a fibre-glass fake perpetrated by supporters of that dangerous socialist terrorist Robin Hood.

That nasty lefty National Trust is evidently propagating the porkies, too:

Some of our extraordinary ancient trees are 1,200 years old.

As for the Woodland Trust, what would they possibly know about trees?:

Boris Johnson’s good track record as mayor of London promoting positive policies for trees, makes his comments on HS2 all the more wayward. He has shown breathtaking ignorance and environmental illiteracy in equal measure with his latest comments, entirely misunderstanding the definition of ancient woodland, which does not necessarily contain ‘old trees’, but rather is defined by Natural England as land that has been continuously wooded since at least 1600AD. It is the soil in these woods that has lain undisturbed for centuries and remains undamaged by agriculture or pesticides that makes these rare habitats so important.

Not only will at least 84 ancient woods suffer loss or damage to HS2, many ancient trees, habitats in their own right, will also be felled – one example is the ancient pear tree at South Cubbington in Warwickshire, which is over 250 years old. The Woodland Trust has mapped over 100,000 trees in the UK the majority of which are over 200 years old and many ancient oaks are more than 1,000 years of age. We would be pleased to take Boris to ancient Hainault Forest in East London where he can see both of these habitats for himself and can learn more about their importance.


We’ve had reports today of residents in Harrow receiving a letter from the Mayor of London, telling them how to vote in next month’s local council elections. A similar letter, tailored to the local ward level of Syon in the constituency of Brentford and Isleworth, has appeared on the admirable website :

The letter ends with the Mayor exhorting the recipient to:

…take a few minutes to let me know what you want me to focus on in your part of Greater London.

The Mayor of London, asking Londoners to let him know what they would like the Greater London Authority to concentrate on in their particular borough?

Or the Conservative Party, harvesting the personal details of unsuspecting Londoners on the pretext of an official survey from the Mayor of London at City Hall, home of London’s strategic regional government, the Greater London Authority? Note how CONSERVATIVES.COM at the foot of the letter is so pale as to be virtually invisible.

Have a look at and see what you think.

Do upload any letters you may receive yourself from Boris Johnson to – they can prove useful in recalling pre-election lies such as this whopper from the last London Mayoral election:



From the Commons Transport Committee oral evidence on the new (MOAR ROADS) National Policy Statement on National Networks, March 31st 2014:

Witnesses: Robert Goodwill MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport, and John Dowie, Director of Strategic Roads and Smart Ticketing, Department for Transport, gave evidence.

Q91   Chair: Specifically in relation to forecasts, we have had a lot of representations saying that the forecasts are inadequate. Are you going to revisit that?

Mr Goodwill: Forecasting road traffic and rail passenger demand is very difficult given the challenges in predicting growth in the population, travel behaviour, the economy and oil prices. Our view is that we should not focus on a single prediction but plan and invest for the future based on a range of scenarios. Our lowest forecast for road and rail growth is based on low population and on economic growth, and suggests a substantial increase in traffic and rail over the coming years. Forecasts from such strategic models are not used in justifying individual schemes; these are assessed more by using mode or location-specific models designed specifically for that purpose.

In terms of the reliability of forecasts, we believe that the Department’s national transport model has not systematically overestimated traffic; it has over and under-forecasted traffic, and this reflects past over and under-forecasting of the key underlying drivers of traffic, for example, GDP, population growth and fuel prices, which are themselves uncertain. While forecasting road traffic demand over decades is difficult, our forecasts perform well when the trends in those underlying drivers are accurately captured. There is a chart on page 11 of the national policy statement for national networks which illustrates this point. The NTM has successfully forecast the trends in traffic since 2003, and the forecast for 2010 was within 1.3% of observed traffic data. I understand that traffic in London is not representative, but even our lowest forecast for traffic growth suggests a substantial increase in traffic levels over the next 25 years, and we have made similar forecasts for rail demand and rail freight.

Q92   Chair: I think that means you are not going to change how you do it.

Mr Goodwill: We are not going to write these forecasts in stone and not respond to events that may change. If the price of oil were to double or population growth did not follow the trend we expected, or if for some reason older people no longer used their cars into their ripe old age because of insurance issues, we could certainly revisit that. Mr Dowie might want to come in to explain how we do that. This is a 20-year forecast, but we are not going to leave it on the table for 20 years without revisiting it.

John Dowie: As an ongoing process, we keep looking at the traffic forecast and the various assumptions we use and how the model works. It is an ongoing learning process. Some groups have rightly flagged up that the model’s accuracy in terms of what is going on in London looks weaker than at a national aggregate level. Clearly, that is something we will be looking at. We are not freezing the traffic forecast and the numbers once and for all in this document.

Q93   Chair: It is an ongoing process.

John Dowie: Yes, but we are just trying to avoid spending weeks at a public inquiry debating the inner workings of the model.

Just to prove where the BS lies in this, this from the Campaign for Better Transport’s is Professor Phil Goodwin’s famous graph of what the DfT said would happen against what actually happened:

I’ll leave it to the reader to judge if Mr. Dowie should be explaining the inner workings of a model that obviously doesn’t work very well.

The consequences for Boris and TfL ought to be profound here – if the DfT, which can’t see anything wrong with models that consistently over-estimate national trends say there’s a problem specifically with forecasting London traffic, how reliable is anything that produces in terms of a basis for hugely expensive, destructive new road schemes?