The first in a series cataloguing Boris Johnson’s somewhat polygamous attitude to the facts.

Reading Boris’s campaign website yesterday, I was struck by the following:

A rail passenger survey by Which? Magazine shows that London Overground has been voted the most improved commuter company, a ringing endorsement of Boris Johnson’s management of and investment in the line.

This is something of a puzzle if you know anything about London Overground.  Those crucial pre-Boris dates:

  • 2005 – Railways Act provides for enhanced powers over local rail for devolved administrations
  • 11/5/2005 – TfL press release - “Delivery of Phase 1 of the East London Line extension took another step forward today with the appointment of Parsons Brinckerhoff as programme managers.”
  • 3/6/2005 – TfL press release – ‘TfL London Rail has selected Taylor Woodrow to oversee £30m worth of civil engineering works on the East London Line (ELL) to be started before the end of June’
  • 21/12/2005 – TfL press release – “The European Investment Bank has signed a £450m (EUR 660m) loan to Transport for London (TfL), in support of the East London Line project (ELLP)”
  • 14/2/2006 – MayorWatch – “Transport for London (TfL) is to take control of overground rail services in the north on London for the first time”
  • 3/2006 – London Assembly publishes ‘London’s Forgotten Railway’ [PDF]
  • 5/9/2006 – TfL press release – “The new brand, complete with its own TfL ‘Roundel’, was unveiled at London’s City Hall today”
  • TfL PDF – “The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, launched his plans for rail in London in Autumn 2006..From 2010 London Overground will form the beginnings of a new orbital railway around the capital”
  • 31/9/2006 – TfL press release – “Transport for London (TfL) today announced that a £223m contract to build and maintain more than 44 new trains has been awarded to Bombardier”
  • 4/7/2007 – TfL press release  – “Transport for London (TfL) has placed a £36m order for an extra 36 rail carriages for the London Overground network.”
  • 24/9/2007 – TfL press release – “Production of London Overground trains begins”
  • 1/4/2008 – TfL press release – “London Overground announced today it’s taken up an option to order seven more trains from manufacturers Bombardier for its rail network”
So by the time Boris turns up London’s government has somehow managed to get the law changed to allow them the powers to franchise the service,  planned a series of major civil engineering works to integrate the East London Line into the system, ordered hundreds of new carriages and selected an operator.  Boris arrives in 2008, sits around for two years drawing buses and then cuts the ribbon in May 2010.
Actually, that’s not quite fair – the one bit Boris can claim a bit of credit for is the extension to Clapham Junction, which wasn’t funded in May 2008.  However even there Boris’s hardball tactics with the DfT nearly backfired and have left one of the proposed stations unbuilt.  So the accurate history of London Overground under Boris is ‘I inherited a long term, well managed project, successfully cut the ribbon but appear to have lost a station somewhere while having a row with the DfT’.
 
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