Oo, lovely, investment in the suburbs, new facilities for cyclists, all the good Boris stuff:

Transport for London (TfL) and the London Borough of Hounslow today unveiled a new foot and cycle bridge that allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross the railway at Bedfont Road in Hounslow in greater safety.

The brand new shared-use bridge, built alongside the existing road bridge, will make it safer and easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel between Bedfont and Feltham, west of the borough.

I used to drive to work over this bridge, actually, it’s just by the Remand Centre (who donated a strip of land for it) and a patch of open ground where, when passing on the train, there are usually some burnt out cars.  Unlovely area, but still, Boris loves the suburbs and it was definitely a hazardous bit of route.  Let’s try and track the decisions Boris made that led to this bridge and where the money came from.  After all, as Kulveer assures us:

This investment shows that by working with boroughs like Hounslow we can improve cycling provision not only in central London, but further afield as well.

and from Hounslow’s Mayor:

The council is committed to keeping its residents safe, and I think that our investment of £500,000 towards the bridge and close work with TfL will go a long way to making this part of the borough safer for those who regularly walk and cycle.

So £500,000 came from Hounslow, but that’s, well, double chickenfeed when you’re talking serious civil engineering.  What about the rest?  Well, if you remember, back in November 2oo8 we had this announcement about LIP funding in 2009/10:

Mayor announces £3.4m boost to local transport in Hounslow

Increase in funding and greater freedom over spending for Hounslow to cut road deaths, improve town centres and cycling facilities, tackle the school run and carry out essential main road maintenance.

£300,000 over three years to build a footbridge at Bedfont Road. The bridge will provide local pedestrians and cyclists with a safe and separate route over the Windsor – Staines railway line

I’m only assuming that’s an accurate reflection – obviously it doesn’t take three years to build a bridge and in any case it’s over the Staines-Feltham railway line, which does make one wonder.  Let’s go back a bit to 2006 and see what was being announced about LIP funding in 2007/08:

Hounslow to receive major boost for transport improvements
The Mayor of London today announced £4.39m of funding for Hounslow to spend on local transport improvements to make the borough safer, cleaner and greener over the next year.

£900,000 to be spent over three years on the construction of a new pedestrian footbridge across a railway at Bedfont Road near Feltham, improving walking links in the borough

Riiight.  That explains it, the confusing ‘three years’ mentioned in Boris’s 2008 press release were presumably financial years 2007/8 to 2009/10, since all they’d done was copy and paste from stock.  Actually, they hadn’t just cut and pasted it, they’d managed to reduce the figure from £900,000 to £300,000, possibly because £600,000 was already committed in previous years.  Additionally it does look like the LIP funding for Hounslow was reduced from £4.4m to £3.4m, which is worth investigating by itself.  Back to the bridge, however, and last May’s copy of (Pyong-Yang style?) freesheet Smartmoves [PDF] has this to say:

The new bridge will cost £1.4 million. TfL provided £1 million funding through the Local Implementation Plan (LIP) walking programme, with the balance footed by the borough.

That suggests an explanation of the cost allocation – £900,000 from TfL, £500,000 from Hounslow is probably the right balance.  Now, what about the date?  From Hounslow’s council website we find some relevant minutes [PDF]:

Executive Public – 02 October 2007

1.0 RECOMMENDATION

1.1 That the Executive Member authorise the Director of Street Management & Public Protection to procure a contract for the construction of a foot/cycle bridge and approach ramps over the railway on Bedfont Road, following a competitive tendering process in accordance with the procedures set out in the Tender and Contracts Regulations.

So Hounslow have been in active preparation for this scheme for at least two years, which means the design and assessment studies are at least three years old.

3.2 In order to obtain the services from Network Rail for this project, the Council signed a Basic Services Agreement with Network Rail in June 2007.

You can’t just put a bridge over a live railway – NR are super-bureaucratic about this and need a good run-up.  How long a run-up is clear:

4.0  PROGRAMME OF WORKS

4.1 The Contract documents will be ready in mid October 2007.  It is intended to issue the documents and to invite potential Tenderers to bid for this Contract by November 2007.  It is anticipated that the Contract will start on site by March 2008.

4.2 The draft construction programme has been drawn up with expected completion by March 2009.

And the money side is cleared up, too:

5.0 FINANCIAL IMPLICATION

5.1 The funding (£900k in total) from TfL has already been agreed over 3 financial years commencing from year 07/08 at £300K per annum.

5.2 Tendering and construction will be completed within two financial years (2007/08 and 2008/09).  Therefore it will be necessary for the remaining £300K to be temporary unfunded until the final £300K allocation is received from TfL at the beginning of the
financial year 2009/2010.

5.3 The Director of Finance comments that TfL is committed to £900K funding over the next three financial years. It is envisaged that there will be unfunded expenditure at the end of 2008/09.  This will only be a temporary situation, as a claim will be submitted in April 2010

So, not only is it not Boris’s idea, Boris’s funding is merely to fill a gap that was known about in late 2007.  Still, ‘Boris honours predecessor’s cycle and pedestrian improvement funding pledge for outer London borough’ isn’t a headline we’ll see coming out of City Hall any time soon, is it?

So, what have we learnt?

  1. Boris has no exclusive claim to be working with the boroughs, contrary to Kulveer’s spin
  2. Boris has apparently *reduced* funding to Hounslow from £4.4m to £3.4m while spinning it the other way – I notice a Mayoral Question was asked back last year on this
  3. We need to go back and examine the LIP funding settlements elsewhere in the capital, including the PR from last November to see if any more of it was inaccurately reported or misleading – we spotted most of them were a cut-n-paste job at the time.
  4. They’re still as shameless as ever about removing any suggestion that nice things didn’t start with Year Zero in May 2008 and pretending that any that did merely anticipated their manifesto commitments by two years.

Of course, it does seem the real losers here are the boroughs, since they’ll have *fewer* of this kind of project with the cost-cutting at TfL under Boris.  How d’ya like them apples, Kulveer?

Update: Coverage of the bridge opening from a local Tory councillor.

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