Wednesday, 14 April 2010

East London Line opening cancelled

The planned opening of the East London Line has been cancelled, following unforeseen technical problems and a bitter political row.

Boris Johnson had been due to open a "preview" section of the line at Dalston Junction station tomorrow morning.

However, the event spurred a long behind the scenes row between the Mayor and his opponents, who claimed his appearance would break election rules.

According to City Hall guidance:

"where a particular initiative, proposal, consultation or publication in the period could reasonably be regarded as giving a candidate or their supporters/political party an advantage in the election. In that case, then the initiative should be deferred until after the election...

“All GLA generated or funded publicity must be, and must be seen to be, politically neutral. Anything that could reasonably be regarded as giving a political candidate or their supporters/party an advantage in the election is not politically neutral. This applies no matter what the justifications for the publicity are."

Aware of the controversy, TfL had invited some opposition members to the event earlier this week.

However, these invites only went out in the last few days, and some opposition members believed the event would still have breached the code.

A spokesman for the Mayor insisted that the event had been cancelled due to problems in attaining the proper certification, and not because of the ongoing row.

However, the leader of the Labour group on the Assembly Len Duvall said today:

"Boris Johnson is in chaos over his stunt to hold an official event using taxpayers' resources during an election campaign. He's been trying to take credit for a project delivered with £1bn of investment under a Labour government and a Labour mayor, but his party still won't commit to complete the next step that London needs - the Crossrail link."

Labour have seized on what they believe is the lukewarm support given to Crossrail in the Conservative manifesto.

The Tories have pledged to "support" the project but have not specified whether it will be completed in it's entirety.

The East London Line will open in full after the general election next month.

No new dates have yet been set for the opening of the first section.

-Update- Boris will press ahead with the event, now expected to happen next week. A senior TfL source told me last night:

"It's not going ahead tomorrow as the line isn't ready, but it will, we hope go ahead when it is. We need the line open as soon as it is ready. We want the revenue and the experience of people using it, and we want the exposure the Mayor will get us by opening it."

A spokesman for the Mayor said:

"Under the pre-election guidance the GLA and TfL are expected to conduct business as usual. This is the long-awaited opening of a railway that will benefit 100,000 Londoners daily and certain publicity is required to make the trial of the new services effective. The Guidance provides that it is appropriate to mark this opening with a non-political event. Members of all the main political parties on the London Assembly have been invited as has the Chair of the Assembly Transport Committee."

The argument from the Mayor's side is that that publicising the new line is far more important than any political considerations.

Will it satisfy his opponents?


prj45 said...

Cor, if this was delayed just because Boris didn't get a chance to showboat that'd go down well I imagine.

WhatsInWapping said...

Not good news for Wapping residents or businesses who have really suffered as a result of the closure.

Let's hope they sort it out soon!

Anonymous said...

How can an event with lots of politicians at it be 'non-political'?

Anonymous said...

I live in Dalston and commute into central London with my one year old. The opening of the East London line couldn't happen fast enough as current construction in the area has led to bus diversions = travel chaos. I was gutted to walk past the station this morning hoping to finally take the tube to find politics delayed its' opening, and to find a bunch of labour politicos outside the station yammering on about Boris Johnson. HEY Politicians - we just want our train. Thanks for thinking of us.

Anonymous said...

Outside Dalston Junction station, 7:45 AM -- Labour campaign event crowing about how Labour built the ELL extension. "Where's Boris?" they ask? "We're waiting for him to show up." they say.

So opposing parties object to the line being opened, and object when it's not opened.

Meanwhile Londoners who have been waiting for this line to open suffer.

I'm disgusted, and can't wait for this election to be over.

AdamB said...

Only another few weeks to go Ted, thankfully.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Tories are planning to build the Cross rail on a volunteering scheme....

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

All this it not really fair on the punters is it and those that are desperate to be using the line?

AdamB said...

The good news is that it will still be well ahead of schedule and (I think) on budget. Well done Peter Hendy and TfL!

Tom said...

"So opposing parties object to the line being opened, and object when it's not opened."

Who's objecting when it's not opened? The opening date is the 23rd May, and if Boris had waited until then none of this would have happened.

Anonymous said...

It hasn't been cancelled - it's been postponed. And the "bitter political row" is just politicians horse trading. Calm down. There are few more issues to iron out. It'll open and be a success. Remember this is just a soft opening - the full opening date is not until May.

AdamB said...

I'm perfectly calm, but thanks for your concern...

dastra said...

Sorry if I've misunderstood, but I thought that the opening's been delayed due to a technical fault, not because of any political arguments.

I think the opposition from Labour is because the opening is being turned into a political event by Boris.

It could still open next week, just without Boris gibbering away on on his soap box outside Dalston Junction.

AdamB said...

Dastra - "I thought it had been delayed due to a technical fault"

well that's certainly what TfL and the Mayor's office are telling me although others are slightly more sceptical.

Andrew Gilligan on the other hand seems to think that it's all Ken Livingstone's fault but then he's a special case.

Anothertom said...

I note the standard issue hypocrisy and logical weirdnesses of gilligan. to me, either a politician opening something has a political impact, or it doesn't, and what's good for the goose (ken) is good for the gander (boris).

in gilligan land, however, ken's photo opportunities during elections are uniquely evil while boris's are demonstrations of his popularity ... lopsided to the point of farce? what gilligan? shurely not.

AdamB said...

Yes exactly. Either Ken Livingstone is a total irrelevance or he's capable of single-handedly preventing the East London Line from opening. Which is it? He can't seem to make up his mind.

Steve said...

This all seems to be a fuss about nothing. Yes, it would be nice if the line could open sooner rather than later. But how come everyone's getting worked-up about a 'failure' to open a month early? What I see is a massive public project that is going to be delivered on schedule, or even slightly ahead of schedule.

But some people can't bring thremselves to congratulate those involved. Of course, Boris deserves no credit at all - he's just turned up to see the project delivered. All the design, financing and planning - and most of the actual construction work - was done before he was elected.

In any event, anyone walking past Dalston Junction station can see that it's not quite ready - passengers would have to walk through a couple of building sites and the bus connections look nowhere near ready.