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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Another Boris Johnson scheme hits the buffers

The Prime Minister is well-known for his flights of fancy costing taxpayers millions of pounds. There was the proposal to build a £15 billion bridge linking Scotland to Northern Ireland, the famed Garden Bridge over the River Thames, which actually cost £46 million before it was scrapped, and of course the equally bonkers idea of building an island in the middle of the River Thames for a new four runway airport.

With a record like that I have no idea why anybody takes this political Walter Mitty seriously, and yet he has somehow ended up as Prime Minister from which he is apparently free to ignore reasonable and comparatively cheap proposals to give poorer school children free school meals during holidays, mess up our response to a deadly pandemic, wreck the economy by taking us into a no-deal Brexit and ignore trust-breaking indiscretions by his own advisors.

Oh and apparently, he is still coming up with nonsense ideas, the latest being that any bailout of Transport for London should be predicated on the introduction of driverless tube trains.

Now, given the technological advances we have made in recent years, in which apparently sane and rational people have proposed delivering parcels by drone and allowing driverless cars out on the roads, this latest Johnson-wheeze seems not so bad. Unfortunately, as with so many of his Heath Robinson-style projects, it has not been thought-through properly, never mind adequately costed.

The Independent reports that a presentation said to have been prepared for senior Transport for London (TfL) managers found the case for driverless Tube trains to be "not financially positive given the high capital costs".

The document said staff savings by removing the driver would be “offset by increased maintenance costs of the additional safety systems, surveillance, security fencing etc required” and that there would still need to be a train operator on every Tube train. 

In short, "Its implementation network-wide will present a considerable affordability challenge which will further exacerbate TfL's current financial and longer-term funding position." and converting the network to driverless operations "represents poor value for money".

We await the time in the not-so-distant future when the British electorate finally decides that Boris Johnson is poor value for money and sends him back to his writing desk, where he can pontificate about straight bananas to his heart's content without actually leaving us with the bill for his pie in the sky plans.

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