Careless tweets cost a rude post about Boris’s increasingly anachronistic-in-an-age-of-austerity pet bus project. Ross Lydall, the Standard’s much better replacement for Andrew Gilligoon, is on his way to Ballymena for the launch of, no doubt, a mock up of the New Bus For London and some PR.

That this is an expensive distraction from the real transport issues facing London (keeping up service levels, fighting George Osborne for a decent settlement, completing Crossrail without going over budget, raising the Underground from the PPP morass without affecting safety or performance) is of course obvious now, but at least the cost seems to have settled. Tomorrow’s Finance Committee meeting papers are out, and the Project Monitoring/Project Approvals doc [PDF] shows no more approval being granted than the £11.4m already known about for the first five.  Series production, and with it a solution to the problems of paying for the second man and persuading the bus industry to pay for Boris’s vanity, is thus some way off.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Boris is likely to have a bus workers’ strike on his hands.  Unite are protesting at City Hall today.

The Unite union has said the coalition government’s spending review next month will also affect wages.

It is currently balloting members at a number of London bus firms for action over pay and conditions.

Only a real cynic would link the appearance of an angry union with the disappearance of Boris* and all the capital’s journalists on a jolly to Ballymena, if you can call ultra-dry Protestant Ulster ‘jolly’.

Possibly the first canary in the coal mine about spending cuts is this line from the September PMPA foreword, which is a new development:

From 14 July 2010 until the revised Business Plan is agreed, Interim Expenditure Controls have been introduced that have resulted in a temporary reduction of the threshold for approvals at the Project Review Group from £5m to £1m. Projects between these figures will be reviewed at PRG but will not be subject to the CGAP.

What revised Business Plan?  I thought it had just been revised?  If they’re clamping down as far as the trivial level (against a multi-billion budget) of £1m then one feels the next few months could be unpleasant, and the expensive vanity bus even more of a standout waste of money. Time to search out what happened in mid-July.

* Embarrassing Update: Boris of course hasn’t disappeared, he’s at Mayor’s Question Time today. Really odd to send the journos to Ulster then?

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