We got rid of Labour’s deranged and wasteful Public Private Partnership for London Underground, enabling us finally to get the new Jubilee line signalling in and to reduce delays on the entire system by 40 per cent. And that new bus incarnates our cost-cutting approach, because the entire project has been delivered for about £10 million – not much more than the annual fare evasion on the bendy buses.
You will hear my critics say that each of the first eight new buses therefore costs more than a million. This is cretinous. You might as well say that each of the first 10 new Minis cost £50 million, because the cost of developing the new Mini was about £500 million. Hundreds of those beautiful buses will be appearing on our streets, and thousands of London buses will be based on their design and technology.
They are British-designed; they boast cutting-edge innovations; they are made in Britain and deliver jobs for the people of this country (unlike the bendies, which are made in Germany); they will do much to help us meet our air quality targets; and they will cost the taxpayer roughly the same as the current fleet of hybrid buses.
Indeed, they are so fuel-efficient – going twice as far as a diesel on the same tank – that over time they might even cost less. The officers of TfL are rightly proud of their achievement, which goes back to the great traditions of the Routemaster, the last bus specifically designed for the needs of Londoners. This new bus represents the boldness of the current administration in City Hall, since we had to overcome the elf-and-safety objections against bringing back the hop-on, hop-off platform.
Above all, the new bus shows that we stick to our promises. I said I would get rid of the bendies, which infuriated motorists and posed a risk to cyclists. I said I would have a competition to design a new bus; and after initial scepticism TfL is now so pleased with the result that officials will tell any mayoral candidate that it would be foolish not to progress with the scheme.
We have delivered on just about everything I said we were going to do in 2008 – and I draw the contrast with Ken Livingstone, who shamelessly and flagrantly broke his promises, not least to cut fares. We have brought in a 24-hour freedom pass for everyone over 60, put the Oyster on the overground, planted thousands of trees, introduced bike hire – and I now seek a mandate to go further. We have cut crime by 11 per cent (with the murder rate down by a quarter and bus crime by a third), and in spite of national budget cuts we will this May have 1,000 more officers on our streets than when I was elected.
We want to go on, cutting crime, investing in local high streets and small businesses, getting the best out of the Olympics and stimulating the growth that is essential for getting young people into work. With our housing and transport investments alone we can create another 200,000 jobs in London over four years. Above all, that bus shows the technological optimism that we must now apply to the Tube. In the next term we must take historic decisions to automate London Underground, obviating the need for old-fashioned cab-based drivers; and I don’t believe that decision can be taken by a man who is ideologically and financially in the pocket of the union barons. That is the mandate I seek. I am now off to the front, and I propose to return with my shield or on it.