Boris’s river of delusion

Look! It’s a press release from Transport for London!


True, it is. So what’s in it?

The updated River Bus Guide, prepared in collaboration with Thames Clippers, gives details of the scheduled services that depart from the eight key piers managed by London River Services along the Thames.

These include a frequent service from Embankment to Woolwich Arsenal. Using the River Bus has never been easier with Oyster pay as you go now available on Thames Clippers services.

Except, of course, after 9pm, when using the river bus has never been harder since Thames Clippers axed their evening boats.

What does Mayor Boris Johnson’s transport advisor Kulveer Ranger have to say on this?

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s transport advisor, said: ‘Travelling by river is one of the joys of living in the Capital; and the Mayor’s vision is for it to be an integral part of London’s transport network.

‘We are committed to making it easier for Londoners and visitors to make the most of the unique experience of travelling along the Thames and it is great to see passenger numbers increasing all the time.’

Indeed, with policies like scrapping boats after 9pm, what could make life easier?

Andy Griffiths, Head of London River Services, said: ‘The River Thames is fantastic throughout the year, giving visitors and residents an opportunity to see many iconic London landmarks, including the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament, from a fantastic vantage point.

‘With the introduction of improved signage, clearer ‘Tube style’ river maps and new branding along the river bank it’s never been easier to enjoy the Thames.’

But best get that journey finished by nine o’clock, eh?

Thames Clippers’ decision to drop the loss-making boats doesn’t feature in this news release, funnily enough. It enraged regular users enough to launch a petition against the cuts, while company boss Sean Collins used The Docklands newspaper to drop a not-so-subtle hint to Boris:

But Mr Collins stated without the same subsidies received by operators of London buses and the DLR, he cannot maintain a loss-making service.

“There have been many failures of river services over the years and the key for Thames Clippers is we’ve made the service available at a reasonable fare,” he said.
Clippers

“What would the reaction be if I said fares would go up across the board because of the late-running service? In the climate today we have to stop the gap widening as much as possible between our fares and Tube fares.”

So, how about it Boris? The mayor told City Hall last week

“We are already subsidising passengers on the river quite considerably. We’re subsidising more for instance than we are passengers on the buses. There is a limit to the amount of taxpayers’ money that you can pour into the River Thames.”

Which doesn’t quite fit in with the “never been easier” guff TfL’s PR department slipped out yesterday. When it comes to subsidising boats used by a tiny (and arguably more affluent) minority of Londoners, the mayor’s got a point; although it’s a little harsh to run these services for years, pull them, and then pretend everything’s okay. “Waterborne Tube line“? I doubt it. Especially now they can’t run under Blackfriars railway bridge at high tide…

Maybe if TfL’s PR department had made more effort to promote those late boats, perhaps those users may not be in the fix they’re in now.

There’s more TfL PR fun and games at Boris Watch, where Kulveer Ranger is talking up the award-winning East Thames Transit bus, the Thamesmead version of which was axed 18 months ago after being branded a Ken Livingstone “vanity project” by one of the mayor’s supporters. Hmmm.

10:45PM UPDATE: What Thames Clippers wants to avoid - a derelict pier from the failed early 1990s riverbus service, still standing on the Isle of Dogs, which I discovered after posting this entry.

One comment

  1. I’ve taken the boat once or twice after 9pm (around 10pm one evening, 1 am on the weekend). I’m surprised it took them this long to scale back the hours, as there was hardly anyone on the boats, I think more crew than passengers! The boats are useful for commuters but there’s clearly been no demand for them. Besides, in the late evenings there are quicker and cheaper ways to get home (barring the taxis).

    As for the PR stuff, I always treat that type of material from any company with a grain of salt.

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