Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
12 January 2007
Filed under:Current Affairs (UK),Old media at3:12 pm

I have long been in the habit of reading The Economist and while it has often irritated me I have generally found something in each issue I didn’t know before – often a statistic or chart worth clipping. Alas in an editorial this week about Ken Livingstone, the Economist seems to have let dislike of the mayor get in the way of the facts. When it comes to public transport “Bagehot”

  • distorts some of the facts – London may have some of “most expensive capital-city fares in the world” but only if you don’t have an Oystercard – and London’s public transport fares have never been cheap. Oystercard fares are still often cheaper than when he first came to power.
  • Refers to old conspiracy theories that are as far as I know at best unproven – that lower car traffic speeds are due to “artificially restricting road widths and re-sequencing traffic lights across the capital” and worst of all…
  • Resorts to complete (and misleading) hyperbole. “Even the mayor’s buses travel at little more than walking speed.” Well I haven’t been able to find figures more recent than the TFL 2003 report but then the average bus speed was 18kph and the average walking speed was 5kph. I do not believe the gap could have closed appreciably in the last three years!

Ken is no angel – some of his political alliances are certainly suspect – but it’s hard to argue with the broad thrust of his transport policy.


  1. That’s funny, when the congestion charge came in, they praised Saint Ken for introducing such an innovative “market-based” initiative. Their own reporters at the time were quite impressed by the reduction in traffic and improved bus service.

    Comment by David Cantrell — 13 January 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Transport in London will always be expensive and frustrating and slow, even with an Oyster Card, which is probably the best way to go in most cases. My time in London was hell on earth, but I’m not complaining. A city that big is always going to have bad transport, no matter who is in charge. That’s just one of the many prices you have to pay for living in London.

    Comment by Caio — 17 January 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  3. As a Truck Driver for most of my life I can say that when he first started to bring in his transport policy all of us truckers were shouting its never going to work. but I have to say that it is a lot easier driver round london now. and as far as I can see the traffic moves faster not just in the centre but all over I think people have soon forgoten that it used to be one solid que from the outskirts to the centre for most of the day.
    I can remember sitting day after day with people walking past you had moved a hundred yards but you could see the person that walked past 10 minutes ago half a mile down the road and you never did catch them up.

    Comment by Paul — 24 January 2007 @ 10:34 am

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