Transport, but not of delight

You wait days for a post to come along on Boriswatch (a scandalously underused vehicle), then two come along together.

Both are by “Tom”, who does much of the heavy-lifting in those parts, both posts are excellent, and based on detailed analysis of the numbers.


The first was about the bit of wire that goes nowhere (well, not-quite close to the Greenwich Dome) to the unscenic beauties of somewhere else (not quite the DLR at Canning Town). The wikipedia picture gives a decent flavour of its essential pointlessness:


The Emirates Air Line ( a poncified cable car) is in trouble. Tom’s graphic tells the sad tale:


That Year 1 peak, of course, represents an initial flush of curiosity, coinciding with the Olympics down the road.

Where this is taking us is a massive subsidy from other transport modes to the dangle way. As Tom has it:

… what’s worse is that the newt fancier’s train set, London Overground, is bailing Boris out on this with much stronger income than expected:

This strong Overground performance has led to an increase of £12m in the full-year forecast, partially offset by a £4m reduction in Tramlink and Emirates Air Line Income.

Just think what £65m could have bought in the way of Overground extensions, new trains and so on, taking people places they actually want to go.

A pain in the bum

Then Tom turned his eyes to Borisbikes, again with  a dismal indication of weekly usage:

Cycle_Hire_Year_On_Year_Weekly-1024x647Those figures should not be treated as nice comparisons of year-on-year. Rental charges were doubled last January. The scheme has been greatly expanded: nearly doubled from the 5,000 bikes and 315 docking stations at the outset. There’s further expansion,  “sarf uv der riva” due in the New Year. Yet usage seems to head ever lower.

Malcolm is more charitable here. He is prepared to believe that cycling in central London and total abstinence may be both “a good thing”. Yet (as Alan Coren said, a day before she encountered Pillar 13, and in the context of Princess Diana and land mines) he does know you poke either at your peril.

Overall, Tom has calculated the cost of the scheme:

TfL have finally accepted that the scheme will always require subsidy and will never cover its costs:

Operating costs in 2012/13 were £24m, of which about £5m was covered by Barclays’ sponsorship and £8m by user charges, leaving an £11.1m shortfall. 

So user charges cover barely 33% of the cost of running the scheme, Barclays barely cover 30% of the remaining 16m leaving the rest of us on the hook for more than twice what the bankers whom Boris is always praising chip in.  He should be thanking us, about twice as often.  Still, we can now estimate the subsidy per ride; 2012-13, Olympics included, saw 9.3m hires, so for each bum on a saddle we have the following:

  • Cost to provide saddle: £2.60
  • From Barclays: £0.53
  • From the user: £0.86
  • From TfL’s increasingly strained revenue subsidy: £1.20

Let us also recall that the scheme was supposed to be self-financing, or better, in three years:

Setting up the bike hire scheme is set to cost £140m over six years. TfL expect it will cover its operating costs within two to three years and will then be able to contribute to its implementation costs. Charlie Lloyd from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said:

“It is very likely they will make some kind of profit on this, and you have to bear in mind that London Transport makes a loss on every single bus and tube journey. So this is a good value transport investment.”.

Yet, on Tom’s figures:

For comparison, the bus subsidy, which is reducing as Osborne slashes the revenue grant that pays for that £1.20 per bum per saddle, is about 17p [per passenger] according to Sir Peter Hendy’s evidence to Parliament recently, down from 25p when Boris was first elected.  By any standards cycle hire is extremely poor value for money in comparison, yet is getting expanded while the bus network, which is how London gets to work and which is increasingly overcrowded (particularly in south east London where there are zero plans to expand anything), stagnates, with money that could go into expansion going into the vanity lardbus.

Well said, sir! Credit where it’s due.


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Filed under blogging, Boris Johnson, London, Tories., travel

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