One plus one equals?


altIf you want to read some confused journalism, try reading Simon Fletcher in The Guardian attacking the recent fare rises in London, introduced by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Fletcher blames previous Conservative governments for not spending enough on transport infrastructure (most notably Thatcher). He postulates that they “imposed an ideologically driven policy of leaving London's problems to the market to sort out. Unfortunately for London, the market did not oblige.” Pardon? Government underinvestment is not leaving things to the market. Privatization is leaving things to the market.

In the same piece, Fletcher claims that former Mayor Ken Livingstone’s finances were balanced; a cursory look at last years Annual Report shows the truth. In fact you need not dig so deep. Simply read fellow columnist Dan Milmo writing earlier this year:

According to the latest TfL accounts, its operational expenditure was £4.6bn last year - supplemented by a government grant of £2.3bn. Without that subsidy, TfL would face a substantial deficit. Its bus operation runs at a loss of more than £600m and the gap between fares and expenditure on the Underground is £550m.

Milmo celebrates this government bailout. Some journalists don’t seem to know where taxes come from. It is not a good thing that central government has to subsidise London’s transport infrastructure. He should not be celebrating the fact that we pay twice for our journeys around the capital.

Boris is right to try to balance the books. Putting up fares is not popular, but it is presently necessary. Afte rall, those outside London should not be paying for those in the capital to get to work (and that's especially true of the poor of Venezuela). That TfL is not able to break even is surprising given the numbers that travel, but then that’s government run industries for you.