Bonkers number of dangerous crossings.

3 12 2010

Interesting safety news from City Hall – hundreds of crossings are dangerous.

In fact, one in ten of London’s pedestrian crossings fail to meet Government safety guidelines designed to ensure the public can cross easily and safely, it has been revealed.

Boris Johnson has been accused of neglect because more than 400 do not have adequate facilities for the blind or do not give people enough time to get across the road.

The Department for Transport set rules in 2005 demanding that all crossings fit very specific criteria to protect the public from injury.

These guidelines state disabled users should have a clear noise during the safe crossing period or a moving part, usually fixed below the box with the request button, which spins when there is a green man.

They also insist that the walking speed for a pedestrian is 1.2 metres a second and this should be combined mathematically with the width of every individual crossing to ensure the crossing time is correct and therefore safe.

But the Mayor admits that they are still several years away from achieving this at all sites in the capital.

Politicians have branded the situation a disgrace and called on him and TfL to do more to ensure that all crossings are up to scratch as soon as possible.

Caroline Pidgeon AM , leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group said: “There figures powerfully demonstrate the low priority given to pedestrians, and especially disabled pedestrians, by the Mayor and Transport for London.

“It is utterly shameful that so many pedestrian crossings in London fall so far short of important safety guidance.

“He must ensure that each and every pedestrian crossing in London meets vital safety standards.”

According to new City Hall figures there are 4970 pedestrian crossings in the capital but 431 are without satisfactory help for the blind while 115 of these are also without sufficient crossing times.

The 115 without all these facilities are dotted all over London, including ones close to Euston and Victoria stations as well as others on busy routes like the North Circular.

Boris Johnson says the speed of upgrade of those crossings is dependent on levels of funding handed to Transport for London by the Government, but he is aiming for between 50 and 75 improvements per year.

“All traffic signals in London are compliant with the national guidance current at the time of their installation,” he said.

“There are 115 sites across the capital that are not fitted with either tactile cones or audible signals and need to be upgraded to take account of latest national guidance.

“It is not possible to extend the ‘clearance’ period at existing signals without a total replacement of the control equipment.  The 115 sites will be upgraded to take account of latest guidance and incorporate either tactile cones and/or audible signals as part of TfL’s rolling modernisation programme.

“Audible and tactile signals are incorporated into pedestrian crossing facilities as and when these sites are modernised by TfL and a further 50 will be upgraded this year.”


Credit cards instead of Oyster and more.

2 12 2010

My story on this has been cut back, just like Southeastern’s service, because of the weather chaos chaos chaos, but it is still a good one.

Here it is in the Standard:

Anyway, apart from the topline, all this also links  in with the industrial action we are all dealing with.

Because the Mayor also says that new improved ticket machines will be rolled out in London’s stations from 2011, including ones that will vend oyster cards and a wider range of tickets.

Less need for staff and ticket offices you see.

“Further updates from early 2011 onwards will provide increased functionality on London Underground’s ‘Advanced Fare Machines’ (AFMs), allowing staff to assist customers with a range of Oyster card services that can currently only be provided at a ticket office,” he said.

“London Underground is also planning to enable the vending of Oyster cards from AFMs across the network starting in mid-2011.

“In late 2011, LU will install 40 new AFMs at stations where demand dictates.”

These changes mean Transport for London is closer to getting rid of cash tickets, which they believe will benefit the travelling public with lower costs.

But critics say that it proves that most ticket offices on the Tube network are doomed, a dispute which has caused disruptive strikes in London over recent months.

The Mayor is proposing that opening hours be cut at nine out of ten ticket offices as staff would be better used helping travellers at gates or on platforms.

A 24-hour strike – the fourth – went ahead on Sunday, in protest over 800 job cuts to station staff.

The unions have refused to rule out further stoppages, in fact they want bigger ones.

London Assembly Liberal Democrat Leader Caroline Pidgeon says that there will be a gap in service as ticket offices have opening hours cut and new technology is rolled out.

“The slow and limited changes to self-service ticket machines reveal just how misguided it is for the Mayor to immediately slash the opening hours at 90% of ticket offices across London,” she said.

“There are many  people whose specific needs are not served by ticket machines.  Moreover even when the upgrades are finally completed the ticket machines will continue to have many deficiencies, such as not being able to provide extensions to people who have a season ticket.

“Advances in ticket technology are of course welcome, yet it is clear that the savage reduction in ticket office opening hours will take place long before the improvements have been rolled out.”

Boris says he wants a condensed Pink Floyd concert for £1.8 million.

23 11 2010

I should imagine this was what it was like for Boris when setting up the annual NYE fireworks display:

If you want to see it in written form, take a look at my story in today’s Standard.

Boris repeats his claims about “social cleansing”.

17 11 2010

So as I bravely battled  man-flu and watched MQT online I almost spat out my Lemsip this morning as Boris repeated his new favourite phrase, despite the problems it caused the first time.

Anyway, for anyone who wasn’t there, nor was I because I didn’t want to make the scores of children and TfL grad-schemers who always attend poorly, Boris was taken to task over the proposed cap on housing benefit.

This is what he said a few weeks back and it made loads of people, particularly the PM, very angry indeed:

Well, here, is what he said today:

“What I don’t want to see is anything like the social cleansing or whatever phrase it was I used and whatever war zone you wish to pick to animate this. I want to use this reform to drive down the rents in central London. I am absolutely determined to make sure this is done humanely.

“We are campaigning so vigorously to mitigate the impact of this housing benefit reform in London. It is common ground not just here but with most sensible ministers that what you don’t want to see in London is transformation into a city like Paris where only the affluent few can live in central areas and the rest are moved gradually, or not, into outer areas. This not what we want to see here.

“I have met Ian Duncan Smith as early as the 27th of September, Lord Freud earlier on and had many many conversations with Government ministers of all kinds on this matter and indeed with colleagues in the Liberal Democrats who share my concerns and who are proving allies on this matter and this is something that is great concern to Londoners.

“We are approaching agreement on a wide range of mitigating measures that we will put into effect to cushion the impact of this change on Londoners.

“What I want to get over is that we are going to minimise the impact on Londoners because it isn’t fair on a city that flourishes and is prosperous precisely because people on low incomes can afford to live in areas near their place of work and that’s vital for the prosperity and success of London.

“I don’t think it will happen and I am very confident that it won’t happen because of our arguments. We have had some very very constructive discussions with government about this subject and I’m confident they understand those points and London will be given time and money to absorb the changes. What I can’t say to anyone that there will be a changes as a result of the cap on housing benefit. That would be absurd.”

This is all very interesting as he is using his words very carefully. Particularly interesting that he used social cleansing again, and words like humanity to make his point.

Also,that he is also lobbying Lib Dems (the ones he slagged off for trying to steal money from London a few months back) and that he believes London will be made a special case. He is sticking his neck out on that one, and will be hung out to dry by opponents if London isn’t treated differently.

Most importantly, it shows that it is another very deliberate attempt to flex his muscles against his own party, and disproves, in my view, any argument that he did not think about what he was saying during that initial BBC interview.

But it doesn’t matter how he says it, I think this Kosovo-style social cleansing example he keeps using is extremely ill-judged.

Boris goes bonkers in Greenwich.

5 11 2010

This interview, given by Boris this morning, is an epic failure. What’s up with him.

Boris and his dirty windows.

28 10 2010


We all have views on the City Hall design, I think I like it more than I don’t.

But when you speak to people at City Hall often they will say it is not always a practical place to work.

But what has become clear is that it is even more difficult, and expensive to clean.

I’ve found that the  City Hall building is costing taxpayers a fortune, because the price of cleaning its windows has spiralled to £140,000 a year.

Washing the glass on Norman Foster’s building now costs Londoners £13,600 a month – more than double what it did when it first opened eight years ago.

Despite the rising costs people working within City Hall say its complicated design means that many windows are still filthy.

The Greater London Assembly’s accounts show that in the last financial year £138,930 was spent on cleaning the glass at the Mayor of London’s headquarters.

This is substantially more than when the building first opened in 2002, when then Mayor Ken Livingstone admitted he was spending £61,000 a year on its windows.

Boris Johnson’s office said today the terms of their lease mean they must clean the windows to a certain standard and they are paying the market rate to do so.

But critics say that serious questions should be asked about how the cost of cleaning has spiralled so much in recent years.

Liberal Democrat leader at City Hall, Caroline Pidgeon said: “Clearly there was a fundamental oversight when City Hall was built and no one gave any thought as to how the windows could easily be cleaned at a reasonable cost.  As a result of such incompetence a fortune has been spent on window cleaning since City Hall opened.

“City Hall is a prime example of a modern building where the design has come first, and practicalities second”

“However in addition to an initial error being made serious questions now have to be asked as to why the cost of cleaning the windows has been spiralling while so many windows continue to be filthy.”

City Hall is on the south bank of the Thames next to Tower Bridge and was designed by architect Norman Foster, who also helped design The Gherkin building in the city, HSBC tower at Docklands and the new Wembley Stadium.

The building was opened in July 2002, two years after the Greater London Authority was created, but the building does not belong to the GLA and is leased under a 25-year rental agreement.

When it first opened cleaning its windows cost £61,000, around £6,000 a month, but by 2008 this had risen to around £12,000 a month and is now, after a new contract in 2009, at around £13,600 a month.

Strange that a new contract should be more expensive.

A spokesperson for the GLA said: ‘The design and structure of the GLA building was agreed upon before its creation in 2000.

“The construct of City Hall and in particular the windows requires that to ensure that they are cleaned to a reasonable standard, which forms part of the terms of our lease agreement, both specialist safety equipment and highly skilled staff are required to clean the more than 3000 panes of glass in building.”

Breaking news from City Hall: Important Boris meeting tomorrow.

25 10 2010

Now I often don’t have the time to go out to all the opportunities offered up by the Mayor’s press office, but I surely have to make an exception tomorrow.

In the last seven days Boris has been hit with the comprehensive spending review and also announced some pretty hefty fare rises for Londoners.

But tomorrow is even bigger news, the press release speaks for itself:

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson will meet American Football stars and cheerleaders from the five times Super Bowl champions, the San Francisco 49ers, who have arrived in London for this Sunday’s much anticipated game against the Denver Broncos at Wembley.

It is the fourth year that the NFL has staged a competitive, regular-season game in London as part of the International Series. For those not lucky enough to have a ticket for Sunday’s game, which will attract a sell-out crowd of almost 85,000, Trafalgar Square is hosting its very first NFL fan rally on Saturday. The free event celebrates all aspects of the popular American sport, including U.S. themed music, dance, interactive games and of course American-style food and drink.

I don’t understand American Football, but I think this is what happens: