According to “official” figures, in 2010, there were 1,818 separate incidents of trains delayed for 15 minutes or more. I suspect that the number is much higher, as “officials” always downplay everything. That means some 11 million passengers were entitled to claim fare refunds – yet only 331,000 did. This is because the process is convoluted and torturous at best. Apparently, some delays involved trains being stranded with passengers having to be walked through darkened tunnels to safety. Is this a transport service we want to rely on for basic public transport? Is this a service that Boris has “promised” will be ready in time for the Olympics, when all the world is watching? Never mind it is 53% more expensive the the world’s 2nd most costly public transport (Tokyo), the fact is, it DOES NOT WORK.
The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London (Right? Honourable? Lord????) has promised us, no..has guaranteed us, that the tube will be completely fixed by the time the Olympics comes. Seems a damn long time to wait for decent public transport. One would ask, why does it take a major international event to fix it? Anyway – it will never be ready in time, fact is, it can’t be fixed. The tube was started 150 years ago and now has some 253 miles of passageway falling apart under the capital, carrying millions of people every day. It’s crowded, uncomfortable and expensive. It was built in the most haphazard way by competing companies. If you think that the tube runs along the lines of which the current tube map looks like – you would be very mistaken.
When it was invented, it was a rather stupid idea. Running steam trains in tunnels underneath the London streets. But of course it was considered a “great engineering feat of modern times”, the world’s only steam-driven underground railway and the first electrified underground railway. That was then, this is now. Engineering and design have come a LONG way since 1862. And the problem is, trying to keep a 150 year old system running is costly, dangerous and ineffective. Like money down the proverbial black hole. (please note, this is YOUR 15 quid spent on a zone 1 – 6 day pass).
Now I am sure lots of people will cry out “oh, but this is what makes London, be… London”. But try and find one person that says they love riding the tube, that thinks the price is fair, that hasn’t been stuck in a delay in the past week. You won’t find any – except maybe Our Great and Honourable Lord Boris – But he has not been on the tube in 20 years.
The fact is it is time to update, time to go modern, time to join the 21st century. It would be easy to plan and build a sleek and stylish (and quiet) monorail over London. The outer reaches (where the tube is not underground, but a real “railway” could still be served by tube. Yes, the cost would be high, but not nearly as high as the amount dumped into a worthless outdated transportation system over the 10 years it would take to build a monorail.
The reason why they don’t is simple. Politics. It would be unpopular at first because of the cost of building it. Higher taxes to fund it would mean Boris would CERTAINLY not get re-elected and as its construction would span several years, there would be pressure on each successive administration. Delays, higher costs, inflation…. Not the best stuff for a re-election campaign. But in the end we would have a fully functioning, easily repairable (try picking up parts for a 1902 railroad) transport system THAT WORKS. It would be cheaper to run too, being able to harness solar power as well. It would be a great source of pride for a city which led they way in public transport 150 years ago (but now sorely falls way behind). It would also be another “engineering feat”.
But alas, this is not even a consideration. It’s all about fixing what is seriously broken. In any other major city in the world you don’t have to worry if you will make it on time to work, leaving an hour for a 40 min trip, and still not making it. Then there is that issue of the Olympics. Our Lord has guaranteed us it will be ready, it will be amazing and run perfectly! And if it’s not Boris?
Will you be the one driving each and every tourist (not to mention commuters) on the Boris Bus? I am looking forward to it Honourable Lord.