Boris was on LBC again today, a month after the famous statement:

“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.

So, a month later, is cash allocated?  Are diggers moving in?  Do we, in fact, know which of the three/two/six schemes proposed he actually supports?  One clue may come from a pair of questions from the Green’s Darren Johnson to the Mayor at the last MQTs:

Will you commit to holding public meetings in Chiswick and Earls Court to consult local people on your proposal for a tunnel to replace the Hammersmith flyover?

As part of your consideration of future road layouts when the Hammersmith flyover reaches the end of its natural life, will one of the options include using this as an opportunity to reduce the traffic flow into central London?

Unfortunately neither has been answered yet.  The first one is interesting as it would give us a clear steer that Boris has gone for the long tunnel option that puts major road junctions at Chiswick and Earl’s Court.  The second makes the obvious point that since all the Hammersmith town centre options require roadspace removal to make way for the buildings (quite apart from the tunnel) the need for traffic restraint needs to be looked squarely in the face.

So, this morning’s LBC softball session with Nick Ferrari was interesting to see how much a month of speculation has affected Boris’s sunny confidence that the whole thing can be built in three or four years. A transcription follows, including the Mayor’s verbal ticks and repeated words that make these sorts of things so distinctive:

[7 minutes in, yet again discussing Boris ‘going in’, presumably to the House of Commons]

BJ: Well I don’t know, I don’t know what is it that I don’t know?

NF: You don’t know whether to go in or stay as where you are, you just don’t know, you, you, you go with the wind

BJ: <inarticulate> All I know I’ve got to do is…

NF (over): No no, just tell me I’m wrong with that

BJ: …people of London.

NF: ..move on

BJ: No because it”s a trap question, because…

NF: No it’s not

BJ (shouting): It’s a ludicrous, trap question! You you you you sit there, come on, everybody’s had enough of this…

NF: I’m enjoying it

BJ: …there’s Dan in West Hampstead

NF: Alright

BJ: …who needs to ask a serious question

NF: It is ‘Ask Boris’ of course, so we move on

BJ (mumbling): It’s not ‘Ask Ferrari’

<confused talking over each other>

BJ: You’re entitled to your views, but if you ever, are we are we, you said by the way that you conclude, does that mean that this question is now…

NF: How’s the Hammersmith Flyover going?

BJ: Aha! Doing well.

NF: Is it?

BJ: Yes

NF: That’s what’s made you decide not to go in last time.  Is it, have we got the plans, is it all green lighted?

BJ: Ah, well, not green lit, we’re not quite there yet, but it is just one of the series of amazing things you can do to improve the infrastructure of the city…

NF (over): When will, when will I be able to drive under Hammersmith and not fly over it?

BJ: Not in the next five years, but probably in the next fifteen years

NF (incredulous): FIFTEEN YEARS?  Ay, ay

BJ: Well come on, these things are not done overnight

NF: No, I’m sure

BJ: ..not done overnight.  Let’s go to Dan in West Hampstead

<irrelevant praise for LBC and idiotic banter about Nick Ferrari as Mayor snipped>


Dan: Boris, Boris, serious question is, Mr. Mayor, given the fact that London is potentially facing a fine of £350m for breaching pollution levels why are the lunatics at Transport for London concreting in and narrowing all the major roads in London – Whitehall, Waterloo Place down by Pall Mall, Parkway in Camden Town; they were all three lane roads where traffic flowed, they’re now single lane and all the other two lanes have been concreted in, and so traffic sits, belching out fumes, traffic tailing back for miles, up the road, why?

BJ: Uh, Dan, all I can say is that what we’ve done, I mean I’m not aware of the schemes that you’re, er, you’re mentioning there, not, er, part of our project to smooth traffic flow, and indeed I’m proud to say in fact that traffic speeds have microscopically increased under my, my Mayoralty from 9.3 to 9.4mph which isn’t much, er, consolation I know to people such as yourself who are stuck in traffic.  I’ll look at all the schemes that you, you mention . We are obviously very concerned about the first thing that you mentioned, which is the problems of air quality and, er, there we are obviously putting in loads of measures including cleaner buses, limits on taxi ages, measures to encourage walking and cycling to improve our air quality.  Actually, London is now only in breach of one, in, in one respect, in the er, which is nitrous oxide.  We’ve made huge progress and we’ve reduced nitrous oxide emissions by about 20%.  I’m not saying that we’ve, we’ve, we’ve, we’ve cracked it, but we’ve, er, we’ve made huge progress and don’t forget we’ve got, we’re bringing in the Ultra Low Emission Zone down by 2020 which really will make a huge difference to air quality in the centre of town.

NF: Quick response from you Dan?

Dan: Yeah, I listen to this stuff, I understand you’re doing all the other measures like the Low Emission Zone

Boris (over): …but it’s the narrowing of the streets you’re complaining about

Dan: Yes, exactly, I think it’s counter-intuitive, if you’re doing all the other measures, which I agree with you are great, and I love the fact that you’ve been planting thousands of trees over the last..I think that’s fantastic but as someone who goes round…I use public transport, I don’t drive all the time, it’s just recently I’ve noticed it’s crazy the traffic sits in a single lane that all goes stretching back from the traffic lights, all the way…

Boris (over): Listen, Dan, I’m I’m going to, I’m I’m going to get, I’m I’m going to going to take up every single point that you, you make, um, I, obviously I cycle everywhere so I see some of the impacts of some of these road improvements and sometimes I wonder what we’re doing and very often our traffic engineers will have a rational explanation for what is going on, almost almost almost always.  I’ll make sure that in respect of every single scheme that you mentioned, you mentioned Camden, various others, we will give you a

NF: Dan, run through the list, one of my colleagues will pass it on to the Mayor’s office, move to the next caller, Mr. Mayor

BJ: We’re going to Carol in Paddington

Very enlightening, I’m sure. It’s high time we wrote down what the full quote was last month:

[7:36 in]

NF: What is happening between you and George Osborne?
BJ: Um. George and I are, er, have a very good, er, working relationship and indeed an old, old friendship and what we’re wanting, what we both wanted to do is, ah, get David Cameron re-elected
NF (over): So will you be making a Commons comeback?
BJ: …in 2015…and that is that is the project about which we are united and that, in that we certainly
NF (over): And will you be making a Commons comeback?
BJ: I am going to be getting on, as I have never tired of telling you in the last eighteen months and I’m so sick of this subject I’m I think I’m going to I think I’m going to expire sometimes I’m going to get on and, er, er, my job as Mayor of London
NF: Would you be prepared to…would you be prepared…
BJ (over): Think of what we’re, Nick, think, Nick think of the joy of being Mayor of London why would, d’you know, the things we’re…
NF (over): So you don’t want to go back into the Commons prior to 2015?
BJ: Can I just tell you can I can I just tell you something you may not have heard
NF: I’m going to get Diana back on you…
BJ: Yeah, get Diana back in a minute but but let me
NF: Because I’m not going anywhere.
BJ: Nooo
NF: You’re not going to go back into the Commons?
BJ: I’m going to…
NF (over): Because you love being the Mayor?
BJ: I…Can I tell you something we had the oth…the other day? A presentation came in from Hammersmith and Fulham. Nick Botterill brought his team in from Hammersmith and Fulham. They’ve been working for months on this idea of creating a new town centre in Hammersmith and Fulham. They’re going to take this flyover and make it a flyunder and we thought..we’ve been listening to this for months and months thinking ‘ah, come off it, it’s never going to work’ and actually it is brilliant
NF: It’s going to happen?
BJ: It adds up. It’s the most fantastic scheme
NF: You’re going to go under?
BJ: We’re going to go we’re going to tunnelise the flyover
NF: Wow
BJ: And…
NF: When’s that happening?
BJ: …and…well this is all..the timescale will be, you know, three or four years I expect…
NF: Right
BJ:…but it will be it is what was so what was so interesting was that even the engineers looked at all this and they thought you know, because they’ve been, they’ve been very, pretty, pretty sceptical, and they thought it was a great scheme and so if you if you’re if you’ve got that sort of thing on your agenda, if you’ve got daily the excitement of of trying to run helping to run the greatest city on earth why on earth would you would you want to do anything else?
NF: So you’re not going into the Commons prior to 2015 because of the excitement of the Hammersmith Flyover..flyunder?
BJ: Correct. The sheer excitement of the Hammersmith Flyunder is keeping is is all I
NF: You’re not going, so despite George Osborne’s entreaties the answer’s no?
BJ: The answer is I’m sticking to my job which I was elected to do in..ah…2012…er..and indeed in 2008 and I’m very and people of London I’m very very privileged to be here

So the whole ‘we’ll build the flyunder in 3 years’ story came from Boris desperately trying not to say that he isn’t considering a tilt at Parliament in 2015.  At no point does he give Ferrari a straight answer, one notes, and tosses out the Flyunder story as bait to get him off the, er, hook.

The outstanding question therefore is ‘what happened between the 3rd March and 1st April to change ‘we’re going to tunnelise the flyover’, ‘three to four years I expect’ into ‘we’re not quite there yet’,’probably in the next fifteen years’.  Someone’s obviously had a word and pointed out that this isn’t in TfL’s business plan, plus the inherent problems with the feasibility study we’ve been documenting.  I’m sticking to my original idea that it’s all to do with the council elections and LBHF need Boris to promise support for their scheme in order to sell it to the public.  Unfortunately facts appear to have got in the way in the last four weeks and Boris now just looks shifty on both the Commons and Flyunder questions.  He’s noticeably less at ease in this month’s interview, actually.

Oh, and those road narrowing schemes Dan from West Hampstead is talking about that Boris hadn’t heard of?  Well, the Waterloo Place one was Westminster Council’s Piccadilly two-way scheme, which was opened in February 2012 by, er, Boris Johnson:

The final phase of a £12 million project to improve the public realm, traffic and pedestrian flow through Piccadilly, St James’s Street and Pall Mall has been officially opened by the Mayor of London.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: “By providing more paving, ripping out superfluous signs and restoring two-way traffic for the first time in almost 50 years, we are rejuvenating a jewel in London’s crown. This will ease the flow of traffic and is a terrific example of the work we are doing to provide better and more attractive streets in the Capital that will inspire and delight anyone that uses them.

‘Ease the flow of traffic’, there.  Nice to see the Mayoral finger firmly nowhere near the pulse as usual.

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