London’s part-time Mayor and his entourage spent today at MIPIM, an international property show in Cannes.

Johnson gave a keynote address on housing in London.

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He again repeated his assertion that the way to ensure young Londoners can afford to buy or rent in the city is merely to build more unaffordable properties:


Increase supply. That is the answer to the house price crisis that our city faces. That is the answer to the problems of young Londoners.


There, problem solved. Easy, wasn’t it?

He then went on to reel off a list of proposed London infrastrucure projects, including:


We’re doing all kinds of beautiful things across the ciddee and later this year we will go in for planning permission for a [sic] absolutely beautiful, stunningly beautiful project. A new garden bridge.

I don’t quite know what the point of this thing is, but it will be…actually no, it will transform the Aldwych area, on the north bank of the river, completely transform that dead area of town, and it will create a wonderful new park for Londoners, full of bosky nooks and bowery corners where everybody will go, have a crafty cigarette and look out over the Thames and enjoy themselves and it will be a wonderful new amenity for the city.


Transport for London is part-funding this white elephant to the tune of £30m.

Since when has London’s transport authority been in the business of funding public parks which even its own Chairman can’t see the point of?

Londoners may, understandably, increasingly be of the opinion that they can’t see the point of Boris Johnson.

 

Searching back through last week’s spin and fluff, one things stood out from the latest fluffy artist’s impressions:

BhzxyC4CYAAXDOk

 

What’s that on the left between the lake and the Town Hall?  It’s a main road, isn’t it?  All this is showing is that Furnivall Gardens is being given a makeover and a row of large blocks of flats along the northern edge.  There’s no ‘reconnection’ going on at all in this image really.

The origin of it appears to be connected to this Masterplan design from January 2014:

Hammersmith-Masterplan

 

This has some notable similarities with the imagery publicised by LBHF last week, such as the blocks north of Furnivall Gardens and the road between them and the Civic Centre.  It it also clearly incompatible with the Feasibility Study Option 1, as this image shows. Masterplan roads in purple, Option 1 in Green.

MasterPlan-Option-1Clearly the western and eastern parts of the masterplan can’t have both blocks of flats or a commercial centre *and* the original six lane A4 rising up from its tunnel.  The tunnel portals cannot realistically be in the Masterplan area and therefore the ‘Option 3′ mentioned shows that it is predicated on the longest tunnel which has the highest rate of traffic displacement.  The Masterplan area is therefore going to have to take half the traffic of the current flyover on non-grade separated surface roads which have been narrowed by building work.  I’m not entirely sure that makes for a great town vibe, you’ve got a busy road cutting off the retail centre from the cultural centre.

The existence of a Masterplan is hinted at in Section 8 of the Feasibility Study, oddly without mentioning which option it refers to and how much remaining surface traffic would need to be catered for:

A theoretical exercise was undertaken in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) in order to capture the land value from developable land released by the burying of the flyover in order to meet construction and other costs. In order to do this a master planning type piece of work was undertaken in Hammersmith town centre and along the A4 corridor to come to a reasonable assumption of the quantum of land released for suitable development. From this, assumptions were made on residential sales values, unit sizes and financial receipts.

Given that Option 1 frees up a tiny amount of land and the Masterplan is apparently in the billions range it must be a long tunnel option, yet the Masterplan imagery doesn’t look like it’s built round the surface roads carrying 50,000-odd vehicles which would be required.  There’s a sharp bend in one of them and the CGI imagery below shows two lanes and a bus lane with a vanity lardbus in it, and is that Cycle Superhighway 9 on the right there?  There isn’t anything resembling a coherent picture you’d hang north of a billion quid of investment on.

So just what is this magical presentation Boris was referring to on LBC last week?

“A presentation came in from H&F. They’ve been working for months on this idea of creating a new town centre in H&F.

“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.

The Mayor added: “What was interesting was even the hardened TfL engineers looked at all this – they’ve been very sceptical – and they thought it was a great scheme.”

Also, why is the figure of £1.7bn bandied around instead of the £218m for the only feasible scheme and the £1.2-£1.3bn for the unworkable long tunnel options?

The only conclusion one can come to is that Boris is indeed talking about one of the long tunnel options, the £1.7bn is probably a mistake for the top-end £1.297bn of Option 3.  So why hasn’t TfL told him that the traffic problems don’t work with the GLA’s Masterplan due to needing far more roadspace than it provides and that without traffic restraint and modal shift the ‘new town centre’ would be little more than a car park?

An FoI request is going into City Hall asking for the presentation received from LBHF, the Mayor’s preferred tunnel start and end points  and TfL’s responses to it as quoted by Boris.

 

 

It’s long been a contention of this blog that Boris will, eventually, bring back the discredited, costly and destructive 1960s Ringway scheme in some form or other.  The first inkling was the Silvertown Tunnel proposal (which is essentially a Third Blackwall Tunnel by another name) which TfL brought forward once Boris had canned the Thames Gateway Bridge, itself a shadow Ringway remnant.  The other shoe has now dropped and unless London mobilises in the next two months to stop it we’re going to throw away forty years of progress on building a non-car dominates city based on nothing more than a politician’s whim and a scheme cooked up by rank incompetents and greedy spivs.  Hyperbole?  Let’s lay out some facts.

The libertarian Conservative administration at Hammersmith & Fulham have long been far more pro-car than is reasonable in an inner city borough (compare Camden or Hackney, for instance).  This manifested itself in opposition to the congestion charge western extension and subsequently in a pointless widening of the awful Hammersmith Gyratory, sold to TfL as a way of ‘smoothing traffic flow’ on Fulham Palace Road. This was lavishly funded by TfL and so far as I can see is a complete failure – I cycle through the area to work reasonably often and it’s still insanely bad, but with more space for cars to get stuck.  Heartened by this, and with a transport agenda (‘Get h&f Moving’) that concentrates mainly on speeding up the road network they are now pushing the first major urban motorway scheme proposed in London since the Thatcher Government’s post-GLC proposals were binned by Cecil Parkinson in March 1990 with this surprising speech:

The main points are clear. First, there was strong support for improvements to public transport. Secondly, there was widespread opposition to most of the major new road schemes suggested by the consultants. Thirdly, there was support for proposals to slow traffic in residential areas, both to improve safety and to deter rat-running. Fourthly, there was general recognition of the need for better traffic management but concern about the level of traffic and a wish to see higher priority given to buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

A number of the most important public transport schemes identified in the assessment studies are now under active examination. We are evaluating urgently with LRT and BR the proposed Chelsea-Hackney underground line and east-west cross-rail. Subject to the satisfactory outcome of the work, I expect to authorise the introduction of a Bill for one of these lines in November 1990. LRT is appraising the extensions of the Docklands light railway to Lewisham and of the east London line northwards to Dalston and Highbury and southward to east Dulwich. It is taking forward studies of the Croydon light rail system with the borough and BR. Funds to begin upgrading the Northern line are already in LRT’s investment programme

I have asked the chairman of LRT to consider further the case for the extension of the Northern line from Kennington southwards to Streatham and Crystal Palace and for a further extension of the east London line to Balham. I am asking BR to give further consideration to service improvements and new stations suggested by the consultants.

I have decided not to proceed with the major road schemes recommended by the studies. I have rejected the western environmental improvement route and the idea of a tunnel from Chiswick to Wandsworth. I have also ruled out schemes on the south circular such as those at Stanstead road and Brownhill road, and the tunnels under Clapham common, Dulwich park, Tulse Hill and Forest Hill. My Department will press ahead with limited improvements along the south circular, and A3 West hill to improve conditions in Wandsworth. In south London, we shall not pursue new routes across Chipstead valley or along the Wandle valley. We shall take forward proposals for improving the M23-A23 junction, for a Hooley bypass, and for widening and junction improvements between Coulsdon and Thornton Heath. I have ruled out new roads at Norbury and Streatham, but I propose to consult the local authorities on establishing an improvement line so that new development is set back to allow eventual widening.

The roads lobby is never quiet for long in London, however, and has been biding its time and changing its skin yet again and finally re-emerged with Boris’s formation of the Thatcheresquely-named Roads Task Force after May 2012. This had a hugely disparate membership from the usual lorry industry suspects to Sustrans and the cycle blogger Danny Williams.  This produced a report which basically came out in favour of every single idea it had been given from streetscape improvement to huge urban motorways, which is unsurprising in the absence of any serious central direction about how London should tackle road congestion.  The foreword gives the game away:

What unites the Mayor and the RTF is a common belief that London’s roads and streets – which carry 80 per cent of people’s trips, 90 per cent of freight in London and account for 80 per cent of its public space1 – deserve a long-term strategy, commitment to investment and increased ambition in how they are planned, managed and developed.

The aim is to tackle road congestion, and also to ensure London’s streets and roads provide better and safer places for all the activities that go on there, along with transformed conditions for walking and cycling.

The obvious answer, which has been London policy since 1973, is traffic restraint – this reduces congestion (or at least keeps it the same while the city grows, which is the same thing) while allowing roadspace reallocation to sustainable modes. Instead of this the RTF has wound the clock back 50 years and taken as fact the discredited assertion that economic growth will always lead to more congestion. This is doubly odd because despite London’s population growing 12% between 2001 and 2011 road traffic *fell* 9%.  The clear evidence that economic growth can successfully be decoupled from rising road traffic by political action and that modern urban societies can thrive without endless increases in motoring does not appear to have entered into the RTF’s thinking.  There is other evidence for this in the high tech industry that Boris is so keen on – this doesn’t set up near main arterial roads, it sets up in the inner city congestion charge zone where there’s good public transport.  Even out here in west London’s TV Triangle Hogarth Business Park, with a single bus route every 15 minutes, is unlettable and being demolished for housing while the converted warehouses and so on along Chiswick High Road are full of start up video production companies staffed by people who get the bus, tube or cycle.

Ignoring the obvious evidence and choosing to base themselves on a myth the RTF inevitably ended up in an impossible situation – they want to improve the city for sustainable modes everyone will be using while providing more roadspace for relief of congestion caused by the motor vehicles everyone will be using:

[T]he RTF has concluded that if the full aspirations for different streets and places, and for increased use of more sustainable modes of travel, are to be achieved without undermining the ability to get around the city efficiently, this will require the application of more strategic interventions – including both managing demand and investing in improved/new infrastructure

Note the subtle division between ‘sustainable’ modes (walking and cycling) and ‘getting round the city efficiently’ (driving, presumably) – up until now it’s been widely understood by everyone involved in London that walking and cycling are, quite apart from environmental and health benefits, substantially more efficient uses of land than private motoring and should be encouraged on that basis.  Given this level of intellectual bankruptcy it’s not entirely surprising that the ‘toolbox’ they use is prone to grandiose, expensive and unfeasible solutions, which will therefore need to be sold to the public under false pretences. Which brings us back to Hammersmith & Fulham council and the Chiswick-Kensington Urban Motorway.

They don’t call it to CKUM, of course, they called it the ‘Hammersmith Flyunder’, and present it as a straightforward replacement for the 1960 Hammersmith Flyover at the end of its life.  This is actually 10-15 years away – TfL are investing tens of millions of pounds refurbishing it right now.  That’s the first lie, therefore – the timescales being talked about for a replacement are roughly 2017-2020, so it’s not an externally forced decision at all, it’s a choice to invest a large amount of public money in a large road scheme in an inner city borough.  There are therefore alternatives and the time to explore them.

The original ‘flyunder’ idea stems not from engineers or transport planners or anyone with any relevant knowledge or experience but from local architects and the Business Improvement District (in association with construction company Halcrow, significantly), and is naturally an incoherent mess with a bucket of PR sloshed over it.  Cited as rest of the world examples are:

  •  the Big Dig in Boston, which spent $24.3bn burying a major road through the city, now increasingly considered to be a failure in transport terms – the city has a nice park instead of an elevated highway but its roads are still hugely congested.  A comparison to what that sort of eye-watering sum could have bought in the way of 21st century public transport is interesting.
  • Embarcadero, San Francisco – this was a highway *removal*, with no attempt to replace the elevated road damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, either above or below ground.  The result is less traffic and a significantly nicer area, and the roads lobby’s fearmongering about ‘gridlock’ proved entirely illusory
  • New York High Line – this isn’t a road project, but an internationally significant prettification of a redundant rail viaduct.  Its appearance in any UK context is usually a herald for an outbreak of spivvery by someone selling something; the reason we can’t do one in London is that our redundant rail viaducts mostly have new railways on them, such as the DLR in Docklands and the East London Line.
  • Cheonggyecheon, Seoul – like Embarcadero a full highway removal and replacement with landscaping and restoration of the existing river that was buried under the road.
  • Central Waterfront, Seattle – a genuine tunnel-replacing-elevated-highway plan, but a long way from completion and already controversial for diverting huge funds into a hole in the ground. Recently, the world’s largest TBM ‘Bertha’ became stuck amid reports that the geotechnical research wasn’t entirely accurate
  • Madrid’s inner ring motorway, in scope much like the aborted Ringway 1, was buried in 2004 in a glorious example of Spain’s lunatic infrastructure period, funded by borrowing and PFI. The environmental credentials of a scheme designed to attract more traffic are, to say the least, iffy, and the actual lesson to take away is ‘don’t build a ring motorway in your capital city, it’s a traffic and pollution generating money pit’.  Wikipedia’s view: ‘The M30 is the busiest Spanish road, famous for its traffic jams’ hardly inspires one to imitate it.

The West London Link study goes on to recommend not a flyover replacement but a full scale urban motorway tunnel from Hogarth Roundabout in eastern Chiswick to Earls Court in Kensington, completely bypassing the entire borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and with no intermediate junctions.  This would apparently:

  • Eliminate through traffic and the pollution it emits from a 3.7km stretch of West London.
  • Release a strip of land for the profitable development of Chiswick, Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea.
  • Create much needed space for parks and recreation.
  • Reroute traffic to recreate Hammersmith as an urban centre.
  • Reconnect Chiswick and Hammersmith to the river.

The reference to Chiswick is a tad misleading.  I live here and know full well that Chiswick technically ends within yards of the start of the tunnel just east of Fuller’s brewery, so the plan spends a large amount of money leaving Chiswick’s A4 section completely unaltered.  This map shows the tunnel in yellow and borough boundary in red.  The total reconnection in Chiswick is therefore two streets.

Chiswick_Boundary_Degale

The bulk of Chiswick’s also already connected to the river by dint of about half of the area being south of the A4 anyway. Our problem is air quality due to being forced to act as the main end point of a large motorway and there’s nothing in this plan that remotely accepts that is an issue.  Other problems with the study are curious things like proposing a tunnel ending at Earls Court and illustrating it with pictures of a six lane tunnel emerging just east of the Ark at the current end point of the flyover. The thought process appears to be this:

  1. A straight burial of the flyover means you need two ugly, noisy, polluting, intrusive tunnel portals and approach ramps, roughly on the sites of the existing flyover ramps (although probably further out on the east side due to the need to go under the District and Piccadilly line
  2. Subways and surface crossings are incompatible with these ramps, so any existing subways would have to close, limiting the possible sites*
  3. Not only does this mean no flyover during the construction phase, with 80,000 vehicles with nowhere to go, but the council will come under pressure from residents west and east of the tunnel portals to move it 100 yards further out
  4. Repeat until you get to the edge of borough
  5. Crayon in the tunnel entrances there

[*The subway point is interesting; between Hogarth Roundabout and Hammersmith there are five subways and two surface crossings, which essentially limits the downwards ramp sites to the central section between Black Lion Lane and the Town Hall.  Building the ramp outside this means you have to remove an existing crossing and create *more* severance.  Notably the current western flyover ramp has a surface pedestrian and cycle crossing directly underneath it and a moment's thought will illustrate that as people need less headroom than HGVs and buses  a flyover will be able to clear a surface crossing well before a tunnel can.  The other alternative is replacing surface or subway crossings with pedestrian bridges, but again the headroom aspect means that you need much longer ramps and more steps to get over the road than you do to get under it, and those structure are somewhat intrusive.]

Nevertheless, on the basis of this the council decided to include the scheme in…

…the borough’s response to the road task force suggestion to explore ‘alternative tunnelled routes’

This refers to a brief case study on the A4 in the RTF’s Annexes which states:

However, to exploit the potential new surface developments and make greater use of Hammersmith’s established transport hub, longer-term proposals for providing alternative tunnelled routes for through-traffic should be explored. This would have transformative effects on the town centre, greatly improving the quality of life for its residents, and reducing severance of communities along the corridor.

which sounds suspiciously like a circular argument – the council presumably lobbied for that (the language is a dead giveaway, and it’s 100% focused on Hammersmith) and are now using the RTF’s incorporation of this as a justification to proceed, although they’ve conveniently forgotten the ‘longer term’.  The subsequent feasibility study, which I have in draft form and which is supposed to be handed to Boris this week came up with yet another set of different options:

LBHF_CKUM_Options_Map

  1. (green) a 1.6km tunnel 15m below the surface on the line of the current flyover, which I suspect is what most residents will assume is the only plan given the careful branding as ‘flyunder’.  This would be excavated using cut and cover, which given that the roads you’re cutting carry around 120,000 vehicles a day implies some drastic traffic restraint across a wide area for the three years of construction (so why not just make that permanent?).  Added to that you need to dig a trench down to and below the District and Piccadilly Lines – closing them for any period is likely to be politically and economically impossible, so we’re talking some kind of progressive jacking of a structure under the lines while they’re operating.  Not least of the issues there is that the same area has high north-south traffic flows as well, plus there’s a major bus station.  Being essentially the same layout as now there is zero reduction in severance for most of the corridor with just a short 100m or so section south of St. Paul’s Green available for repurposing.
  2. (red) a 3.6km tunnel from just before the Sutton Court Road junction in Chiswick to just before North End Road on the Hammersmith/Kensington border, well south of the gyratory.  This would be 25m down and bored, cut and cover not being particularly easy to do on rivers.  There would be major road junctions constructed on the surface at each end.
  3. (blue) a 4.1km tunnel from just before the Sutton Court Road junction in Chiswick to a point which appears to be between the two A3220 junctions on the Cromwell Road near Earls Court Station.  One odd aspect to this is that drivers heading east couldn’t turn north up the A3220 and drivers heading north up the A3220 couldn’t turn west.  Eastbound traffic would have no exits between Sutton Court Road and Earls Court.  This latter point is crucial to what follows.

‘From the project engagement four principal concerns were identified: traffic redistribution, cost, traffic disruption and construction traffic.’

When I heard about what I call the ‘long tunnel’ options I immediately suspected that there was a serious flaw in them.  The A4 east to Hammersmith has three lanes, the flyover has two lanes, but is rarely congested at peak times.  What is congested is the slip road from the A4 onto the gyratory, which suggests a significant proportion of A4 traffic east of Hogarth is trying to get to areas well west of North End Road, let alone Earls Court. If you bypass the whole area with your long tunnel all this traffic ends up east of where it wanted to be and doubling back on local roads, or alternatively comes off the A4 in Chiswick and uses local roads to bypass your expensive new tunnel.  The DfT publish traffic surveys yearly which, while notoriously inaccurate nevertheless serve as a rudimentary means of assessing broadly how much traffic moves along particular corridors today. As a rough rule I have the following:

  •  A4 Chiswick-Hammersmith – 120,000 vehicles/day
  • A4 Hammersmith Flyover – 80,000 vehicles/day
  • A4 west to Hammersmith Broadway – 40,000 vehicles/day
  • N-S flow through Hammersmith Broadway – 20,000 vehicles/day
  • E-W flow on the Chiswick-Hammersmith local roads – 15,000 vehicles/day
  • Hammersmith Broadway to A4 east – 14,000 vehicles/day

These are all before any of the lunatic traffic forecasts in the RTF and London Plan are applied.  What leaps out immediately is that unless you provide an alternative for the 40,000 vehicles coming off at Hammersmith today they’ll try and squeeze onto Chiswick High Road, which can’t possibly cope with 55,000 vehicles per day, it’s a single lane road while that sort of traffic justifies six lanes or so.  So that’s out. Casting around for an alternative, the only vaguely feasible route is on the surface along the A4, which now takes 80,000 vehicles/day underground and 40,000 overground. This is too many for a single carriageway so we need a local four lane dual carriageway replacing the existing six lane A4.  Assuming four lanes underground the Sutton Court Road junction is now eight lanes wide (2 westbound slip, 2 westbound tunnel, 2 eastbound tunnel, 2 eastbound slip), which is at least 33% more land occupied by roads in the middle of Chiswick while far from ‘reconnecting Hammersmith with the river’ what we’ve ended up with is keeping the A4 with 1/3 of the traffic and two lanes removed.  We retain Hogarth Roundabout, slimmed down a bit.  We don’t release a great deal of land for development along the corridor, either, if you moved the remaining four lanes to one side you’d fit in a strip about 8-10 metres wide, minus any road access or other reconnections you might want to do (remember?).  It’s a mainly residential area, too, so don’t go getting carried away with building height.  Finally you’re a long way from any public transport along there, so land value and commercial desirability may not be all its cracked up to be.

East of Hammersmith things are a bit different as far less traffic leaves the gyratory heading east towards North End Road, so Talgarth Road can probably slim down to a single carriageway road with around 14k vehicles/day. This would release a fair bit of land on the north side, at least as far as the point where you need to squeeze in two slip roads round a four lane tunnel portal.  There’s also a Tube station right alongside at Barons Court, so public transport accessibility is less of a bother.

All of this assumes that the extra road capacity doesn’t induce a large amount of traffic, but since that’s apparently the point of the exercise it’s likely that disproportionately more traffic will try and get down the new roads.

The feasibility study recognises the traffic displacement issue and immediately agrees with a key point of my analysis:

the longer the tunnel the less traffic would be likely to use it…opportunities to remove or reduce the existing surface road network diminish as tunnel length increases

This has two key implications – the first is that the long tunnel options are more expensive and have less benefit in terms of re-routing cars, the second is that far from being a key artery into the heart of the city the A4 is to a significant degree a bypass of Chiswick High Road and King Street, and this function would have to be retained in some form in any reorganisation.  The more exits you remove from your buried A4 the more traffic displacement needs to be accommodated on the surface (particularly at Hammersmith) and the less land there is available for all the supposed benefits of the scheme (particularly at Hammersmith) and the whole scheme basically disappears up its own backside.

Having literally dug themselves into a hole, however, the consultants reach for the only possible solution – more tunnels, specifically underground junctions with roads up to the surface that can be used by the displaced traffic to reach its original destination.  There are a few issues:

  1. They are most urgently required at the two major junctions, Hogarth Roundabout (for the A316 traffic joining the A4 eastbound) and Hammersmith Gyratory (for the 40,000 a day leaving the A4)
  2. You’ll need a six lane tunnel now, not a four lane one, which is a fair bit more expensive
  3. You’ll still need a surface road for local access between the ramps, which is another two lanes
  4. So we’ve still got eight lanes of road, only we’ve added another couple of miles of tunnel plus some land take where we really didn’t want to, such as bang in the middle of our new Hammersmith town centre or in residential Chiswick along the A316.

There is in fact a plan knocking about for this:

There are four problems I can see immediately with the Chiswick end

  1. the south-to-east tunnel goes through the moribund Hogarth Business Park, which as mentioned before has just had planning permission granted for a large luxury housing development smack on the line of the tunnel.
  2. it also goes through William Hogarth’s house, which is one of the most important historical buildings in the area
  3. the distance from the A316 to the A4 where they show their tunnel is only about 125m, which is shorter than their figure of 200m ramps needed to get enough headroom in – we’re presumably going between the surface A4 and the buried tunnels too, in a triple decker sandwich
  4. the west-to-south tunnel appears to emerge from underground in Chiswick’s cemetery, then turns sharp right to go up Corney Road, which is a heavily traffic calmed tree-lined residential street, before terminating at a T-junction with the A316.  This is unlikely to be popular in the area.

The study is actually more pessimistic than me about the displacement effect of a long junction-free tunnel – the percentage of A4 traffic they estimate is displaced by each option is:

  1.  0% (as it’s a direct on-line replacement)
  2. 40% (so around 48,000 vehicles/day compared to my 40,000 assumption)
  3. 50% (so around 60,000 vehicles/day)

Even without the side tunnels the costs of the bored option are significantly higher – they’re assuming twin tunnels, thus doubling the length bored, bringing both options 2 and 3 in at well over a billion pounds for effectively no gain in capacity.  Curiously they don’t state whether the long tunnel options are four or six lane tunnels, although the rejected option of a 20m diameter double stacked tunnel implies six (the architect’s report shows a double decked four lane tunnel which appears to be about 14m diameter).

Given all this, the inescapable conclusion is that the two long tunnel options perversely put more traffic through Hammersmith Gyratory, destroying the entire basis of the scheme.  Flailing around for a solution to this they reach for, yes, more tunnels, in this case a north south one from Fulham Palace Road to Shepherds Bush Road.  This is clearly nonsensical – both roads are inner urban high streets, not arterial roads, it needs to be deep enough to go under the London Underground *and* the new road tunnels – and it’s immediately rejected.  In any case it didn’t provide enough relief to the gyratory.

Bizarrely, having effectively trashed the long tunnel options on traffic grounds and pointed out that they force you to keep substantial surface roads on the A4 corridor, the report blithely goes on to assess how much developable land is available between Hogarth Roundabout and Barons Court.  This is not actually any of the three tunnel options – the surviving Option 1 has the entire current A4 on that land, for instance, barring a tiny bit in the middle where there are no existing surface roads.  Instead this appears to be based on GLA work which in turn appears to be based on the original architectural sketches rather than any feasible scheme and an FoI is going in for this.  Even assuming this magical fourth option it’s not clear that the released land is going to cover the costs – the developer has to make a profit and someone has to pay to build the blocks of flats, too, the earliest feasible data for getting a return would be some years after you’ve started pouring money into the hole in the ground.  There’s also no indication of any increase in public transport provision such as new bus routes.  Finally the report cheekily makes a bid to push further road tunnel research (i.e. side tunnels and underground junctions) into TfL’s proposed rework of the Hammersmith Gyratory for cyclists.  Alex Ingram has been working on this at hfcyclists, and his latest post  is here, covering the strange Gilligan/RBKC-linked death of Cycle Superhighway 9, which was supposed to run from Hyde Park Corner to Hounslow via Hammersmith and Chiswick and would actually, if done properly, provide an alternative to driving.  It’ll be interesting to see if RBKC’s transport people are less fastidious about having the end point of Hammersmith and Fulham’s Option 3 dumped on them.

Where are we now?  A lot depends on TfL’s response, which as usual will be coloured by Boris jumping the gun on the radio and declaring himself in favour of a scheme costing £1.7bn, which can only be one of the long tunnel options.  It’s clear from the feasibility study though that the entire scheme as currently understood and which Hammersmith & Fulham council have lobbied for, stirred up the residents to support, got Bill Bailey to back and stuck a massive sign on the town hall to advertise to motorists on the A4, isn’t actually workable – either you replace the flyover like for like, free up almost no land and make sod all difference to the severance along the A4 or you spend well over a billion pounds burying the A4 in a manner that forces half the traffic off it onto a surface network that can’t cope without taking up most of the land that’s supposed to be redeveloped to pay for it.  As a pilot scheme for the resurgent roads lobby it’s hard to think of one that could have more internal inconsistencies and logical paradoxes.  That’s what’s always killed London’s road maniacs and we will be making damn sure it kills them again this time.

 

London’s part-time Mayor has just been on holiday again – this time to the ski resort of La Plagne in the French Alps. The regular skiing holiday taken by Boris Johnson and family which used to be paid for using the Child Benefit which he and his wife, as affluent owners of two homes, chose to claim from the State.

His latest chickenfeed column in the Daily Telegraph makes the following claims:

It is still the case that if you want to find someone to teach your kids to ski, that teacher will have most or all of the following characteristics. His face will be deeply tanned and handsomely creased; his eyes will twinkle roguishly at his female charges; he will say “HOP!” as he plants his pole to turn; he may or may not have a paunch, a hip-flask of cognac and a smell of cheroot.

But one thing is for sure: he will be dressed in an all-in-one red ski uniform emblazoned with the logo of the École du Ski Français – and he will be French, mes amis. And only French

All ski instructors in the French Alps are French, and only French?

In defiance of every basic principle of the Common Market – free establishment, free movement of services, you name it – the French continue to make it virtually impossible for a UK national to set up a ski school, in the French alps, to cater for the vast numbers of English speakers who flock there every winter – and who think dérapage is something to do with a woman’s cleavage.

There are no British ski schools in the French Alps, then?

Why on earth shouldn’t we have British ski instructors freely touting for hire, on the snows of the alps, and speaking English?

Yes, why on earth not? What is the reason?

What kind of a system is it that allows French buses on the streets of London, but forbids English ski instructors on the slopes of the French alps?

I’ll tell you what sort of system it is – one that the tiny, après-ski-addled brain of Boris Johnson has blatantly made-up – it is a lie.

There are several British skiing schools, with British instructors, in the French Alps.

British Alpine Ski And Snowboard School, whose instructors have obviously Gallic names such as Matt, Rod, Ollie, Hugh, Derek and Peter.

How about Supreme Ski School Courcheval, whose director goes by the typically-French name of Gareth Roberts?

In fact, if Boris Johnson had bothered to read his main employer’s own newspaper from four days ago, he would have gleaned:

The resort [Courchevel] is blessed with excellent ski schools. New Generation started in Moriond and now operates in 10 resorts in France and Switzerland. Supreme, BASS and Sweet are also British-run and highly rated. RTM is a British-run snowboard school.

Serre Chevalier, also in the French Alps:

New Generation ski school, run by top British instructor Gavin Crosby, offers proXplore days exploring the whole of Serre Chevalier’s slopes on piste, and two-day off-piste Trees and Powder groups (which include a day in the nearby cult off-piste resort of La Grave or in Montgenèvre, just minutes from the Italian border).

Outrageous and easily-disproved lies from the Mayor of London as he attempts to pave the way for his return to the Commons, blatantly pandering to UKIP supporters as he goes. Pathetic.

UPDATE
Boris Johnson’s pathological inability to tell the truth really has come back to bite him on the backside this time; a number of those apparently non-existent British ski school owners/instructors in France have decided to set him straight:

Dear Boris, I find it odd that you think that it is impossible for a UK national to set up a ski school in France seeing as I work for a British Ski School who has been established in France for the last 15 years and who has taught your sister and nephew!

I am British, an examiner in the BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) system and I am director of a ski school in Val d’Isere, France. I have been working in France legally for over 20 years. Contrary to Boris’s assertions, there are plenty of British ski instructors in the French Alps and anyone is welcome to work in France – providing they have the correct qualifications.
As a BASI Level 4 you can work for a ski school, as an independent or set up your own ski school employing other Level 4 instructors in France. The pathway is very clear and those who take it have successful careers teaching skiing. For more information on the pathway to working in France, visit www.icesi.org/snowsports-emplo…
However Simon Butler who is at the centre of the current media storm employs people who are not legally qualified to work in France which is why he has been arrested. His flouting of the current legal situation and regulations and bleating to the Francophobic British media whenever he is pulled up on it brings down the reputation of all legally qualified instructors and makes the situation worse.
Whilst it may seem easy to say it goes against the grain of ‘the free market’ etc, there are very good reasons for wanting well qualified people to be taking your ski lesson, whether they are French or English, and the French expectation is that British Instructors should have the same level of qualification as their own instructors need to have. That seems fair enough and I am sure the British would scrutinise the qualifications of doctors from other EU member states before letting them loose in British hospitals.

Boris, I have always been a fan of yours, but I am afraid you are misinformed and it is disappointing to hear such forthright opinion on something you clearly know little about, which will always worry me when I hear you speak so authoritatively on subjects I know little about in the future.

I work as a ski instructor in France, for one of the many British run ski schools that apparently don’t exist, and get on fine with the French instructors. The French have a problem with this particular ski school, not with British instructors/schools in general. I would expect better than this misinformed French bashing from the mayor of a major cosmopolitan city. Please try and do a tiny bit of research next time Boris.

@MayorofLondon I’m a British ski instructor, legally teaching in France like hundreds of others (3 years in teh Espace Killy) #legalinfrance

Hi I am British ski instructor, legally teaching in France and never have any problems as after lots of training and hard work I hold the correct qualification. There are hundreds just like me. Its not a problem if you actually hold the correct qualification, pretty simple really.

I am a fully qualified British instructor who hasd been working in France legally for over 8 years and I have worked for both French run and British run ski schools. There is a clear pathway which allows British instructors to work legally in France which hundreds of British instructors have followed. There is a minority however who feel that they are a law unto themselves who choose not to follow this pathway and work without the proper qualifications and who basically make a mockery of the legal pathway that I have worked so hard to follow. Rather than supporting the illegal minority Boris, please do your research before writing such innacurate drivel and maybe back those who have chosen to work legally in France in harmony with the french. Oh and if you ever want a lesson Boris I would be more than happy to oblige ‘mon ami’!!

Boris Johnson…Have you mistakingly been dropped into another country other than France for your ski trips? I can assure you there are hundreds maybe even thousands of Brits working in France….and qualified. It is not just us as Brits that have to do these qualifications either. It is the same across the board no matter what nationality. I am a British Citizen working in France.

Boris Johnson…I have to say I am now extremely concerned as to what are doing as our mayor of London ranting about something you clearly have not got a clue about…Do you know anything about London?

This article starts off with a blatant lack of research or truth. there are numerous British run ski schools working legally in France. The current recognized pathway required before being LEGALLY able to teach Snow Sports in France is a tough pathway which plenty of British instructors have travelled and completed. I currently have the pleasure of working legally in the resort of Les Gets / Morzine, and I must admit that working within the recognised legal parameters has its benefits, as when the authorities come around to ensure people aren’t teaching illegally, I get to shake their hand, show them my License, watch them note down the number for reference, and then they simply wish me a good day as they continue on to ensure others were legal also!!

@MayorofLondon
This inaccurate nonsense wouldn’t normally bother me, yet in this case I have felt the need to comment as it may affect my livelihood. I, along with hundreds of other Brits work totally LEGALLY right here in Morzine in the alps. We have a very simple qualification process from level 1 for gap year students up to 4 for snow sports professionals looking to work in France where instructors are highly regarded and are viewed as respected professionals. If you work hard and archive the highest level, you gain French equivalence and the right to work. Very straight forward if you ask me

Boris, I am a British instructor and director of a ski school in France. My colleagues are British, French and Italian. We are all fully qualified. We teach thousands of British clients every winter. Last year we even taught members of your own family.

I qualified in the British system before we had recognition in France. To teach in France at the time, I had to sit several additional exams in the French instructor system. Since then, and through an EU supported process, member nations have agreed common standards for ski instructors, Brits can now qualify in their own system and teach skiing in France.

Unlike the UK, ski instruction in France is governed by specific laws. The French have one level of certification. We have 4 levels. Our top level matches the French level. This is why the French arrest British qualified instructors who do not hold our top level. Equally, they will arrest a French or any other national without the relevant qualification.

Your uninformed article makes a mockery of more than 300 British instructors teaching in France and our hard work to qualify to EU agreed standards

 

TfL said they would lay on extra buses to cover this week’s London Underground strike action and it’s evident that some truly ancient private hire vehicles have been contracted into service today.

These vehicles are over 60 years old – a running life that the New Bus For London New Routemaster (as TfL now insist on calling it) can only dream of a fraction of.

However, none of the vehicles pictured above are Routemasters – a distinction lost on those who have photographed them.

The fact that many Londoners are now unable to identify a Routemaster makes a mockery of Boris Johnson’s 2008 election promise to “bring back the Routemaster” – what uniquely identifies a double-decker bus as a Routemaster?

The open platform? Absolutely not – the buses pictured above are all RTs, a class of bus which first ran in London in 1939 - all of them have open platforms.

Buses, horse omnibuses, trams, trolley buses – they all had what can be identified as “open platforms” in the past.

Nor was the open-platformed double decker ever unique to London, as Boris Johnson would like to fool the public into believing. Virtually every major city in the UK had open platform double-deckers: Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, for starters.

Why are open platform buses no longer in service when they once dominated?

Open platform buses with two members of staff were more dangerous for both passengers and crew and they pushed up operating costs to unsustainable levels as the wage bill is doubled.

Back to today’s Tube strike – London Underground plan to shed up to 1,000 staff yet TfL are now committed, thanks to Boris Johnson, to running 6,000 new buses with two members of staff instead of just a driver.

The second member of staff, a “customer assistant” rather than a conductor, is there to stop people falling out of the open back door of the new bus. False nostalgia does not justify doubling the wages cost of one of London’s essential transport services whilst simultaneously closing all Underground ticket offices and cutting back Underground station staff to a level where passenger safety is compromised.

 

This morning, LBC broadcast another installment of its occasional phone-in, Ask Boris, hosted by London’s occasional mayor, Boris Johnson and regular presenter Nick Ferrari.

Mandy, a bus driver from Croydon, phoned in halfway through the programme. The official LBC Live Blog states that the call went as follows:

09:28 – On no cash for buses – from bus driver Mandy (who also said thank you as it will mean no more muggings)

Boris: I think Mandy as you will know bus drivers are already pretty flexible, if it is late at night and there is no way… during the day we will make sure that people are aware they need their card topped up and we are looking at the shop system to make sure there is more coverage for people to top up.

[On one touch bank card being used]

It is fantastic, I tried to do that, it will not try to take money from both a one touch bank card and an Oyster card.

[What about tourists?]

You can pay with credit cards – if you are a tourist and it is overwhelming probable that you will have a bank card.

Oyster readers on buses will not try to charge both your contactless debit card and your Oyster card – Boris said so. Except, he didn’t. Then he did. This is what was actually said:

Johnson: Can we go to Mandy – Mandy in Croydon, is she still there?

Ferrari: Go ahead, Mandy.

Johnson: Good morning.

Mandy: Good morning. On behalf of all London bus drivers I would like to say thank you, first of all, for getting rid of cash.

Johnson: Oh, right.

Mandy: No more muggings. But my question is: How is it going to impact on the passenger? How are they going to be able to pay when their Oyster says there’s no more money on it?

Ferrari: This is the idea that buses will go cashless in…remind me when that is, Mr Mayor? This summer, the buses will go cashless?

Johnson: Summer, yes.

[Ferrari and Johnson talk over each other]

Ferrari: Cash fares on buses will fall to over 1% a year. Mandy, you’e clearly a bus driver so you’re at the coal-face. You’re obviously pleased because your security is enhanced by the mayor’s decision but somebody arrives…

Mandy: Very much enhanced.

Ferrari: Well, that’s great news. Someone who’d got tenpence on their Oyster is in trouble. Mr Mayor?

Johnson: Well, I think, Mandy, as you will know, bus drivers already are pretty flexible. If somebody is in desperate straits and, you know, it’s late at night and there’s no earthly way they can get the cash or get the cash on their Oyster card…

Mandy: Well, we’re obliged to allow them, late at night…

Johnson: I think I’m right in saying…

Mandy: During the day…

Johnson: During the course of the day, we will make sure everybody is aware that they’ve gotta have their Oyster card topped up and we are looking at the Oyster ticket shop network to see if there are additional places where we can help people to top up their Oyster cards, especially in outer London. So we’re trying to make sure that there is more coverage for people who may run out of cash on their Oyster card during the day.

Mandy: And will you be able to do an announcement like you did in the Olympics? Will you be able to do a pre-announcement on the bus making sure that everybody is aware that we are going cashless and that they use their one-touch banker’s cards, because most people still don’t know that they can use a one-touch banker’s card.

Johnson: I know, I did it the other day, it’s fantastic! I got on the bus and I waved my…unfortunately it tried to take money both from my Oyster card and from my bank card but it won’t do…I just want to reassure all listeners with touchless bank cards it won’t do that, will it, Mandy? It’s technically impossible. Can I just reassure all listeners it won’t take money from both your cards…

Mandy: Yeah, it comes up that there’s more than one card there. It does not take it.

Johnson: That’s right, so what I did was, I took out the Oyster card and I took it from the bank card and that worked fantastically well. Since lots of people have bank cards, we think that’ll be a great improvement, we think that’ll be very, very…

Mandy: Yes. But could you do…

Johnson: We will do, we will do, we are…I think we are doing some big promo.

[Ferrari and Johnson talk over each other]

Ferrari: “Hello, folks, Mayor Johnson…” – can we have one of those again?

Johnson: I don’t know whether there’s going to be overwhelming public support for that but I will talk to TfL.

Mandy: Actually, it really worked during the Olympics…

Johnson: It did, it did. Mandy, I will ask TfL very politely…

Ferrari: Do you drive your bus in Croydon, Mandy, or are you in the City?

Mandy: I’m a City driver. I drive a big route.

Johnson: All right, fantastic, well thank you very much, Mandy. Thank you.

Sudden reverse ferret from Boris Johnson as he realises he’s put his foot in it.

TfL were obviously listening to this broadcast as the following appeared in my email in-box at 10:01, 33 minutes after Mandy’s phone call to LBC:

Important Oyster card reminder‏

I am writing to remind you to only touch the card you intend to pay with on the yellow card reader. Keeping your Oyster cards and any contactless payment cards separate helps to avoid ‘card clash’.

If you touch the reader with a wallet or purse containing lots of cards, this may lead to ‘card clash’ and the ticket gates not opening, slowing down your journey. It could also result in payment being taken from a card you did not intend to use. This could currently happen on buses but cannot happen on London Underground, DLR, London Overground, Tramlink and National Rail services until contactless payment is introduced later this year.

We will let you know well in advance when contactless payment will be available across the rest of the network. Using contactless will mean you don’t have to top up or buy a ticket, so you can get on board quicker.

Desperate knee-jerk reaction from TfL as Boris Johnson, Chair of TfL, does his best to sabotage their contactless propaganda campaign:

Use of contactless cards on TfL buses has been woefully under-target so TfL can well do without Mayor Johnson’s big mouth.

TfL is going ahead with the withdrawal of cash fares on buses, despite the fact that only a third of respondents to TfL’s “consultation” were in favour.

 

TfL, December 2008, talking about the benefits of reducing speed limits on the Thames road bridges:

The data below shows that reducing the speed limit to 20mph could achieve a 34% reduction in collisions, with a total cost saving per annum of £1.5m

However, Boris, 2011, claims the opposite:

“My information is that the general speed [on Blackfriars Bridge] is nearer 12 miles an hour, therefore a speed limit of 20 mph isn’t necessary and could be a serious impediment to smooth traffic flow,” said the Mayor. “I’m not convinced of the case for this.”

As it happens the average traffic speed given in the December 2008 report is 26mph for Blackfriars Bridge with an 85th centile speed of 31mph, so that’s another example of statistics with Boris characteristics there.

London’s democratic scrutiny body tries to pass a motion calling for 20mph at Blackfriars in 2011:

The motion asking the Mayor to retain the 20mph limit at Blackfriars is being reintroduced in the London Assembly on the 20 July 2011.

When the motion was first submitted by Assembly members last month, with support from Green, Labour and Lib-Dem politicians, Conservatives walked out, preventing a debate or vote on the motion.

The City of London’s rather less democratic body, however, has no trouble passing a  measure to bring in 20mph and guess who’s along for the ride now?

Following a vote by the City’s Court of Common Council last autumn, consultation begins on this week on the implementation of the Square Mile’s 20 mph speed limit.

At the same time, TfL will be introducing an experimental traffic order to set 20 mph speed limits on Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge as well as the roads leading up to the bridges on the City side.

TfL’s trial will last 18 months, during which time it will gather feedback and monitor the scheme’s merits.

TfL’s well remunerated misty eyed bus nut Leon Daniels, fails to explain the u-turn:

“We have long supported 20mph speed limits on borough roads and more than 20 per cent – or more than one km in every five – of all roads in London are now 20mph.

“While some roads in London provide vital arteries for keeping our city moving; others represent places in their own right and therefore lower speed limits could be more appropriate.

The detail:

TfL will be introducing an “experimental traffic order” to set 20mph speed limits on two north-south corridors through the City.  These are:
• Blackfriars Bridge, New Bridge Street, Farringdon Street (up to Charterhouse Street) – which form part of the Mayor’s proposed North-South cycle route.
• London Bridge, King William Street, Gracechurch Street, Bishopsgate, Norton Folgate (up to Worship Street) – which will tie in with a pedestrian improvement scheme currently being delivered outside Liverpool Street station.
TfL’s trial will last 18 months, during which time it will gather feedback and monitor the scheme’s merits.

Residents and commuters will have the opportunity to comment on both schemes on the TfL and City of London websites.  Subject to feedback, the new speed limits would look to be introduced during summer 2014.

What changed, then?  The City of London is hardly the most democratic body in the world, yet one vote from them and City Hall completely reverses direction where a number of high profile cyclists’ demonstrations and the London Assembly, when not hampered by the Tories walking out, couldn’t shift him.  Part of it’s timing, of course – the original Boris reservations about 20mph might well be around how TfL would have to enforce it running up to the 2012 election:

‘…the possibility of time-distance cameras being used to enforce a reduction in speed limit’

TfL’s report claims the bridges are unsuitable for normal soft streetscape changes to enforce 20mph passively (chicanes, different surfaces, build outs) so it’s hard to see what other than average speed cameras would be usable.  Additionally since 2011 Boris has been re-elected and with his sights clearly set elsewhere somewhat lost his fear of the motoring lobby, as evidenced by TfL’s plans to put average speed cameras on major roads and the Roads Task Force prioritising the more sensible measures over the ABD inspired lunacy about tunnels and flyovers.

Given that TfL are procuring more average speed cameras currently it wouldn’t be that much of a step to put average speed cameras on the bridges (here’s an FoI for the timetable which TfL typically haven’t answered, merely saying 2015/16, or in other words just before Boris leaves office).  It’ll be interesting to see what practical enforcement can be done for a short (18 month) trial, although the main road trial is only six months longer than that, so why not?  Without that it’s hard to see a few signs making the required difference to average speeds.

What this does indicate is that TfL is increasingly moving back to its pre-Boris ways and having a tacit road user hierarchy again, which in many ways is a good thing (they know full well that investing in road capacity or smoothing traffic flow has no real benefit) but in some ways quite a bad thing, as large publicly funded bodies doing their own thing because the boss isn’t bothered isn’t particularly democratic.  Somewhat should at least be able to put a coherent story together for the voting public.

Finally it’s ironic that it’s taken the not particularly democratic City of London voting to put cyclist safety first to pull TfL kicking and screaming (or rather pretending it was their idea all along) into the modern world where the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in the heart of the city is put ahead of motorists’ convenience.

 

A lead in one of the comments on the London Reconnections tube piece digs up yet another silly new project name – ‘Jubilee Line World Class Capacity’.  This is related to the reported interest in purchasing more trains and has a hefty price tag of £251m.  The first mention seems to be in a 3rd October 2013 meeting of the Projects and Planning Panel:

It was confirmed that the majority of the estimated final cost of £251m for the Jubilee Line World Class Capacity Project was allocated to new rolling stock, with the remainder to be used for infrastructure.

A reference appears in the latest PMPA for the 9th January meeting giving an estimated date of project approval in about six months time, which will be interesting to watch.  Notably here we have the conflict between wanting a homogenous fleet of trains (for maintenance) and wanting cabless trains (for Boris’s vainglorious Crow-bashing reasons).  Additionally the need is driven by the capacity crunch existing on the line now, which makes any choice of entirely new stock extremely risky and largely impossible on timeline grounds.  This means the odds have to be on a new build of an existing fleet.

£251m is about 25% of the entire Victoria Line upgrade, including new trains and signalling.  Given that that was 47 new trains and a lot more infrastructure, £251m sounds about right for 16 new Jubilee trains, as reported by Modern Railways – a rough smell test at 7 cars per train and assuming £50m is infrastructure comes out at £1.75m per car.  The previous Jubilee Line upgrade (7th car plus four new 7 car trains) was £160m for 87 cars, £1.8m, but costs might have been higher under PPP.  The similarity in costs and low number of trains also strongly indicates this is a new build of existing designs as there’s no slack to cover an entirely new design and you wouldn’t do that for 16 trains.

So the only question is how Boris is going to spin retreating from the promise to order no new cabbed trains along with employing another bunch of new train operators, union membership and all.  Let’s just remind ourselves of that pre-election promise:

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

They’ll probably claim they’re renting them, or it’s not a cab, it’s a bedroom, or that they’re not really new designs, just new old designs or some such bull.

 

Been digging out the timelines for the original retendering of the SSL signalling after Metronet collapsed with a view to seeing quite how much baloney TfL’s line that the 31st December 2018 switch on for the full SSL resignalling is.

  • Westinghouse DTG-R scrapped – April 2008
  • Invitation To Tender issued – July 2009
  • Shortlist of two – July 2010
  • Awarded to Bombardier – April 2011
  • Full in service date – December 2018

If  we apply that same timeline to the retendering we get a duration of 10 years 8 months with everything moved 5 years 8 months down the line:

  • Bombardier CityFlo650 scrapped – December 2013
  • ITT issued – February 2015
  • Shortlist – February 2016
  • Awarded to ? – December 2016
  • Full in service date – July 2024

They’re going to have to cut a few corners, otherwise the new Piccadilly Line trains (cabless, remember) will be arriving before the signalling…

 

That was quick – a few hours after us pointing out the evident difficulties being experienced with Bombardier’s CityFlo650 contract awarded in 2011 in terms of dates missed and extra costs incurred, the last day of 2013 sees the news quietly snuck out that TfL have terminated the deal.  The Telegraph has the most coverage so far:

The company, which is employing around 100 engineers in London on the project to upgrade the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, said its signalling system was incompatible with the Underground’s creaking infrastructure, more than two years after the contract was first awarded.

Transport for London (TfL) will now seek new bids for the contract, insisting that the planned upgrade will still be delivered to its time schedule of 2018. However, a spokesman admitted that the cost of the project may potentially rise.

This is the second time this has happened, after the original Metronet plans were scrapped as ‘unfit for purpose’ and retendered after the end of the PPP on the SSL lines.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: ‘The signing of this contract means that we can now proceed with one of the most important elements of the Tube upgrade programme.

‘The Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines are the oldest in the Capital, making up a large chunk of the Tube network and moving a million Londoners every day.

‘This new contract will deliver the minimum amount of closures while delivering the improvements all Londoners are desperate to see.’

Needless to say this should be hugely embarrassing – CityFlo650 was hailed as being the silver bullet that could be installed over the top of the existing signalling with minimum disruption while as recently as 21st December 2013 TfL were sticking to the 2018 date in the Turnham Green story, when surely they must have known.

CityFlo650′s use in Madrid was pointed to repeatedly, possibly because at that point the system was only really used on a serious metro in that city, with most of the other installations being undemanding airport people movers.

At the time many people were puzzled as to why TfL would plump for a fourth ATO system alongside the (obsolete) Central Line Westinghouse system, the more modern Westinghouse DTG system working successfully on the Victoria Line and SELTRAC as used on the DLR, Jubilee and currently being installed without too much trouble on the Northern Line.  Those fears of unnecessary complication and cost seem to have been partly justified by today’s news.

The question now is ‘what next?’.  Even the obvious answer of a quick retender and selection of SELTRAC and a seamless move of the design and development teams from Northern to SSL after December 2014 is going to involve a delay of at least two years, I reckon, given that two years work is effectively being burned today.  That means early 2021 for SSL resignalling and capacity upgrade, with consequent knock on effects on District Line capacity (no upgrades), existing signalling (keep patching it) and system reliability. Presumably the S7 train fleet will be rather underutilised.

On the other hand, removing the unnecessary extra ATC system has positive benefits

  • the new tube stock can be specified for SELTRAC and operate universally on Jubilee/Northern/Piccadilly and in future Central and Bakerloo.  
  • You only have one set of spares and one set of knowledge to maintain in LU
  • You don’t need to fit 86 sets of CityFlo650 kit to 40 year old Piccadilly Line trains for five years use (given the delay you’d probably just combine SSL and Piccadilly resignalling and stock replacement into one megaproject).

In hindsight the whole 2011 decision looks badly flawed, and it’ll be interesting if anyone is held to account.

[Updated 12:05 with the Telegraph link and quote]

More details are emerging – the contract has been ended by mutual agreement and Bombardier still expect to be paid for work completed (the Hammersmith control centre, presumably).

The RG link also indicates that a new OJEU notice will be required, rather than simply appointing someone to finish Bombardier’s work, so this is a ground-up restart of the project with a different system.  None of which makes the ‘no change to 2018′ line credible in the slightest.

[Updated 12:41 with extra links]