Betrayal… SWCF and the Mayor of London

Nina Tuckman (Campaigner)

For as long as we can remember, Ken Livingstone, now Mayor of London, was on our side: “Just breathing the air in London doubles your chances of getting lung cancer”

“No new roads – they are not the answer to London’s transport problems”.

Ken Livingstone has – or better, had – an honourable record: Archway, GLC opposition to the East London River Crossing (ELRIC) destroying Oxleas Wood… Of course, the vultures never go away and so, “business interests” (i.e. cheesy geezers with wide braces) were endlessly lobbying for a new ELRIC, renamed Gallions Reach, re-renamed Thames Gateway Bridge. Pre-election promises Dr Barry Gray, chest consultant and leader of People Against the River Crossing, pursued Livingstone at his pre-election meetings and was given unequivocal assurances: any such bridge “would be built over my dead body” and “they would have to put me in the first block of concrete”. (On this point, my New Year’s greetings to Ken said “let’s hope they will”).

Ken Livingstone said many times during his electoral campaign that transport was the most important and pressing issue facing London – right up our street! He had a specific programme – no “pie in the sky” talk about “improving the quality of life”, which included freezing fares and reviving buses, as well as modernising the tube.

We worked hard to get Ken elected. When he was, we rejoiced – our troubles were over – at last we could work with the authorities to improve London instead of desperately trying to stop it getting worse. On his election night I was myself hugged by a tearful Livingstone “Trust me, I won’t let you down” he said. I did trust him and so did we all.

How wrong can you be?

He has betrayed us royally! Ken’s Transport Strategy Cynically, Ken Livingstone has said “pre-election promises are not legally binding”. His Transport Strategy, produced by the sort of bureaucrats from the tired old useless bodies which have given us the transport and environmental disaster which is London, is a road-building and pollution-producing document that the Department of Transport in its most hysterically road-building days would have been glad to get away with. Among Livingstone’s favoured projects are the Thames Gateway Bridge (now re-re-renamed “Bridge from Barking to Thamesmead”) so, so far, the cheesy geezers are winning.

The Mayor’s excuse is that this motorway bridge will “regenerate”. For this opinion he relies on reports produced for the developers themselves! Livingstone will now not see us, or any of his former friends who oppose road-building – but favoured lobbyists include London First. Its transport chap is none other than Irving Yass, formerly chief of London road-building at the Department of Transport – and bete noire of Simon Wolff.

No scholarly independent opinion supports the Mayor’s position. Reports such as those produced by SACTRA and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution emphasise the need to cut traffic and that new roads, and most of all new motorway bridges, create huge additional traffic – and so pollution. And as to economic regeneration by motorway – take a look at Liverpool or the areas of London near Westway and Eastway.

Motorways through poor areas remove whatever employment exists to suburban developments. So… what’s to be done? We must, once more, fight a malign and secretive establishment. Our first step will be to hold, with People Against the River Crossing, an academic seminar on 15th February to investigate whether this London motorway will regenerate or destroy. You are doubtless asking yourselves: why has Livingstone thus betrayed us, himself, and the London he professes to “love”. Who knows?