London mayor Boris Johnson is back with a bold vision to speed up London and make it the ‘best city in the world’, says Steve Norris
It may have been a damned close run thing but Boris Johnson is back in City Hall for a second (and he insists, last) term as London mayor.
Part of the reason for his success when many of his fellow Tories were falling like nine pins is that he is seen as almost above party. That is Boris - a man who says simply that he wants to make London the best big city in the world, by which he means one that is safer, more prosperous, greener, better educated, narrowing the gap between rich and poor and ultimately one which is easier to get around.
In reality, transport is the mayor’s biggest responsibility and it is one this mayor takes extremely seriously.
When first elected Johnson made clear that he did not regard motorists as his enemies. There are still those who see this as akin to blasphemy, that he should dare suggest that motorists are decent human beings too, but in reality all he was saying was that simplistic attitudes to public transport and the undoubted merits of soft modes should not obscure the reality that in London most motorists are there of necessity rather than choice.
Focus and attention
Smoothing traffic for him is about reducing pollution, improving journey times and thus productivity and making the network more efficient.
So in his second term expect to see lane rental and tougher penalties for late working in an attempt to ease the scourge of road works together with the continuation of traffic light phasing reviews.
We’ll see the extension of the cycle hire scheme, which is introducing a whole new cohort to the joys of cycling, helping push cycling up the agenda in a way which was unimaginable a decade ago.
Expect more focus on public realm, to create calmer, greener places to enjoy. The new bus for London will attempt to capture the fl exibility of the old Routemaster but with minimal emissions. Green energy will figure across the board as will waste to energy projects.
And of course Crossrail, the largest rail project in Europe, will start to be visible if not complete before Boris steps down. He will start planning Crossrail 2, the Chelsea-Hackney line of old, to deal with massive overcrowding between Victoria and Kings Cross and push the Treasury for the funding to be able to continue his Tube upgrade programme.
Having been brave enough to stick by his fares policy when under deliberate attack from his opponent, he will tell the chancellor he deserves support not least because he will deliver real jobs as a consequence.
A week may be a long time in politics but transport professionals know that four years is actually not long enough. But Johnson is determined to leave London a better connected city than he found it and on current form, you wouldn’t bet against him achieving that aim.
Steve Norris is a Transport for London board member and chairman of the Base London event.