Thursday, 15 May 2008

Why do people write such crap?

When the London mayoral results were announced, Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson both made notably gracious speeches. Johnson was widely commended for being so magnanimous in victory, praising Livingstone as "a very considerable public servant and a distinguished leader of this city".

Not so, however, some of Johnson's supporters. Last week Iain Dale, in his highly-regarded blog -- well, it is very highly regarded by Iain Dale -- delivered himself of the following astonishing assertion:

[Transport for London] have failed in virtually everything they have set out to do.
In reality, Transport for London under the chairmanship of Ken Livingstone has been extremely successful, not from a Labour or socialist point of view but in the eyes of independent transport experts and non-party professionals everywhere. For instance:

-- Uniquely in the world, a significant modal shift has been achieved from private car to public transport. This is the holy grail for sustainable cities throughout the world, and had widely been thought impossible.

-- The congestion charge, a brave pioneering move, has made the whole concept of road charging respectable. Tories used to oppose it, despite the fact that it is merely the application of market forces to a finite resource (road capacity) for which demand exceeds supply. They have now given up opposing it.

-- Bus services have improved out of all recognition. London is one of very few places in Britain where bus ridership has risen significantly.

-- Cycling in London has gone up by 43%.

-- The Oyster card has proved to be a rare win-win innovation, bringing numerous real benefits both for passengers and for operators. London was not the first city to adopt such "touch and go" smartcards for public transport -- I had one in Kuala Lumpur several years ago, and Hong Kong had them even earlier -- but it had nowhere been introduced on this massive scale, and all with barely a technical hitch.

-- The transfer of the North and West London Lines from Silverlink/Network Rail to TfL and their relaunch as the London Overground represents another big quality improvement for passengers.

As if his preposterous, pig-ignorant comments about TfL were not enough, Iain Dale goes on to mount a nasty personal attack on Dave Wetzel, outgoing TfL Vice-Chair. In the 1980s, Wetzel was Transport Chair at the GLC. In that earlier incarnation, he oversaw the introduction of the zonal fares system, "Fares Fair" and the Travelcard, all huge improvements at the time, and first steps towards a more integrated transport system. He should be a hero to anyone who really knows and cares about London.

Dale seems to think Wetzel is "Dave Spart" of Private Eye. In fact, so far from being a crazed Trot, he is a serious, widely respected and highly experienced transport policy expert, who addresses academic conferences on the subject and has a lot of letters after his name, as you can see if you take the trouble to Google him.

The only thing more depressingly unfair than Dale's post is some of the 73 mostly idiotic comments that other people have made below it. Truly breathtaking nonsense, for the most part. What a lot of ill-informed, childish, spiteful, pathetic rubbish there is in the blogosphere.

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