This is what Boris Johnson being Mayor has actually cost London

A breakdown of costs that show exactly who benefited - and failed to benefit - from the Tory mayor's strategies

Christian Wolmar
Tuesday 08 September 2015 13:01 BST
Boris Johnson unwittingly broke the law when giving his wife a lift on his bike
Boris Johnson unwittingly broke the law when giving his wife a lift on his bike

Unsure about what Boris Johnson has cost London? Let me break down some of his worst excesses for you – altogether of which add up to over £600 million in poor decisions, ideological dogma and vanity schemes.


London did not need an entirely new type of bus, especially with a back platform which meant that it would not be possible for the design to be used anywhere else in the world.

Last week, the London Assembly finally discovered that, despite pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into the Boris Bus’s development and design, taxpayers do not own the rights to the Mayor’s “iconic” new Routemaster.

Intellectual property rights for the bus remain with the manufacturers until Transport for London has ordered 1,000 vehicles. And TfL, having forked out for 800 of the vehicles at a cost of more than £250 million, has no plans to buy any more.

Meanwhile, Londoners are still having to pay for Johnson’s expensive idea of having “customer assistants” on those routes which operate using the rear doors: each assistant costs around £30,000 per year to employ and support. They can’t operate as old-style bus conductors, of course, because London’s buses are now cash-less.

Boris’s “New Bus for London” was claimed to be “the greenest, cleanest” bus ever designed. Yet there are growing doubts about the difference between the bus’s performance trials data and the reality out on the roads of our city. Claims of the bus operating at 12 miles per gallon of fuel seem exaggerated, with some reports including MayorWatch concluding that in operation, the buses struggle to achieve half that figure – with all the expense that involves.

And there is a good reason why “the greenest, cleanest” bus is using more expensive and polluting fuel than Londoners had been lead to believe by the London Mayor.

The Boris Buses which were supposed to be environmentally friendly hybrids, operating off electric motors for much of the time. In fact, many have been operating solely in diesel mode, making them less clean than other buses.


Johnson has promised at least £30m of public money towards the £175m project, to match £30m of Department for Transport funds, even though there is no transport logic behind it and very little public support. As opponents say, “it is neither a bridge, nor a garden”, but an expensive vanity project.


Another Boris Johnson vanity project. The Mayor spent millions on a scheme which was ultimately rejected by the Davies Commission, as had widely been expected.


Another white elephant which the Evening Standard has reported has just four regular users of the cable car between Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. The scheme is unlikely to cover even its operational costs. As with much of what the Tory Mayor promised, there was supposed to be no public money - but TfL has admitted it contributed £24m.


The 2012 Games showed London in the best possible light. The planning of the sporting infrastructure for future use has shown it at its worst. Not all the blame for the costs can be laid at Johnson’s door over this: it was his fellow Tory, Lord Coe, who advocated the original design, for what was effectively the world’s first $1 billion disposable stadium.

But it has been on Johnson’s watch as London Mayor that £272 million has been spent, since the 2012 Games, on making the stadium fit for future, multi-sport use, and it has been under our Tory Mayor that one football club, which has a Tory peer as its chair, has been given a massive financial advantage over London’s other clubs, as West Ham will pay less-than-cost £2.5m in annual rent and contribute just £15m – or less than the price of a Championship striker. And once again, Boris has left the London taxpayer to pick up the bulk of the bill.


It is not just in spending money that Boris Johnson has been a costly Mayor. He has been very keen to “give away” public property to overseas developers who manage to appeal to his vanity, too. Take the Chinese scheme in south London, to rebuild Paxton’s Crystal Palace. Here, Johnson wanted to hand over more than one-third of a listed public park. The planning blight created by Johnson trying to inflict this hare-brained scheme cost the local council considerable sums to administer (estimated as at least £150,000), while local residents and park users saw years of their hard work as volunteers trampled over by the Mayor, and carefully negotiated Lottery funding schemes worth £4.5m for much-needed improvements in the park lost because of the uncertainty created.


This is impossible to quantify, but Johnson has repeatedly handed developers generous deals, often with public assets, while demanding very little to benefit the existing communities in return, and delivering very little affordable or social housing. He has also encouraged luxury developments that have used up land that would otherwise be used for social purposes. This has probably cost London hundreds of millions over the past seven years.


There have been more strikes since Johnson took over because of his failure to negotiate with unions and his aggressive stance over ticket office closures. The thinktank Cebr puts a conservative estimate on the cost to the London economy of £10m per day each time transport workers in the capital go on strike – and yet as London Mayor Boris Johnson has refused to meet with the trades unions to negotiate settlements to disputes. This has been reckless as well as irresponsible, but it is what we have come to endure of London’s part-time Mayor.

Christian Wolmar is seeking selection by Labour to be the party’s candidate for London Mayor in 2016. He is the only non-career politician short-listed by any of the major parties

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