Kulveer Ranger, struggling to get a transport policy up and running, has been having a tough week – first pushed out front by Boris to explain to everyone why their fares were going up by 6% (even though for many of us the rise is substantially more than that) while ‘tough choices’ (read: cuts) are going to be made.  Then the Transport Committee starts focusing on the popular Cross River Tram and it’s probable imminent demise and then a genuine black hole emerges, around the financial needs of the ‘successful’ Tube PPP scheme, Tube Lines.  £1bn is suggested.  TfL’s release (heavily influenced by the abrasive Tim O’Toole, I suggest, in another nod to Boris leaving TfL to the professionals) is noteworthy for its bullish and aggressive tone:

Given this extraordinary circumstance, TfL expects such a shortfall to be met by the Government, which imposed the PPP structure on the Tube and Londoners.

TfL, as we’ve seen, is funded by central government grant and revenue.  The idea of raising fares to fill the whole is, one would suggest, something of a non-starter, and anyway, Boris wants Gordon to pay, and he’s quite right.  Boris is obviously planning cuts, but since things like CRT aren’t funded, the amount to be saved is really not going to fill the hole.  Gordon, however, will want Boris to eff off – he’s already raided the LDA budget to pay for his housing crisis plans, which gives some idea of how high throwing money at London is on his agenda just now.  This isn’t something we can play party politics about, though:

We do not have the option of scaling back the works to offset this expected demand because the Tube will become less reliable and its capacity will shrink at a time of growing demand, and, in any event, the PPP contract produces an increase in operating charges as a result of any reduction in capital spending, thereby frustrating attempts to cut funding demands.’

In other words someone has to pay, otherwise the contract has a nasty gotcha.  Time for Red Boris to renationalise again?

As for Kulveer Ranger two more bits of information have come out.  First, the Standard doesn’t do him any favours by assigning him rather too much credit for the Oystercard, saying that this was why he’d been ‘head-hunted’ by Boris.  Obviously being vice-chairman of the Conservative Party and an aspiring right-wing politician had nothing to do with it.  I wonder how thorough that interview was.  Text message, perhaps (‘BN ON BUS?  U GOT JOB!’).

I’d long ago noticed the discrepency between his official biog on the GLA website and what he told the Transport Committee, not least that he was very young at the time and only worked on it during 2000-02, as part of a team from the management consultants Nichols, so pushing the whole ‘Kulveer was big on Oyster’ thing runs the risk that eventually someone who really spent years introducing it will go ‘hang on a minute’.  At which point Boris might have to say goodbye to a fourth big name appointment, or is it fifth.  My notes from his meeting with the Transport Committee say:

Late 2000 2.5 years on Oyster, making sure it launched, rewrote PFI contract, how it would be delivered.

So he seems to have been involved around facilitating the launch and writing the contract.  We don’t even know who he was working for.

My notes also say:

Differentiation from previous administration – seeks to understand what Londoners want, listen, then try to implement that.  Leadership is about providing a vision.

How’s the vision coming on?  Well, the Transport Times July edition has Boris on the cover [PDF].  Good publicity?  Not really, the picture is captioned:

Where is Boris going?  Mayor’s policy confusion.

Oh dear.  Which brings us to Christian Wolmar, whose first blog post in ages is all about Ranger and Boris:

The problem can be neatly expressed: how can Boris set out a distinct transport policy without pissing off – to use Alistair Darling’s favourite expression – much of his electorate? The ideological impasse is obviously causing him angst: Tories generally favour individualistic solutions rather than collective ones, but transport needs in London, or indeed in any major city, can only be solved by an emphasis on the collective.

Kulveer Ranger, Boris’s principal transport adviser, rather let the cat out of the bag when he suggested that there should be no hierarchy of transport users but instead everyone should have the opportunity to use the roads. That That is just plain naive nonsense. He was roundly attacked in Transport Times for the suggestion and his response, in this month’s issue, is decidedly weak.

Ranger appears to be very pro-motorist, as one might expect from a right-winger with no experience (he apparently believes all the ‘car hating Ken’ straw men as articles of faith), but announcing that central London should have no hierarchy of transport users is colossally irresponsible and is going to have to be rethought.  This is not a position from which to sort out the Tube or work out how to replace bendy buses while retaining ‘appropriate capacity’ or explain to Londoners why the road death rate has increased or why environmental improvement schemes aren’t happening in case some bloke in a car doesn’t approve.  In fact, London’s transport future now hinges on how long it takes a total transport tyro to realise that the ideas he brought to the table are wrong.  That’s assuming Boris (or rather noted environmentalist Sir Simon Milton) keep him around long enough.

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