GLA Transport Policy Director Kulveer Ranger talks to Sandra Heavenstone about his transport plans
Kulveer Ranger was the lead delivery manager of the Oystercard for London in 2003 and led commercial negotiations on behalf of the Secretary of State supporting the King’s Cross redevelopment. Kulveer leads on policy direction for Transport on behalf of the Mayor. He also oversees the relationship between the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to ensure the delivery of the Mayor’s priorities.
What is at the top of your agenda?
Our priority is to improve the quality of the journeys made by the millions of Londoners and visitors who use the network each day. We will do this by ensuring that the renewal of the Tube continues despite the weaknesses of the system that we have inherited, tackling congestion, improving London's transport infrastructure ahead of the 2012 Games, expanding green transport, and reducing overcrowding across the network. The key to this latter job is the construction of Crossrail, which will become the single largest infrastructure project in Europe. Crossrail will increase public transport capacity by 10 per cent, allowing the network to meet the demands of London's growing population and marking a new era for the capital's transport system. The future prosperity of London relies on us effectively delivering this vital project.
Will you be keeping the congestion charge and if so how will you be developing the charge?
There are no plans to get rid of the congestion charge in central London - it has proved effective in deterring unnecessary car journeys into the centre. That said, congestion itself has now returned to pre-charging levels, reflecting a range of changes that were made to London's streetscape under the last administration. Our job now is to make the charge more effective and fair. We intend to achieve this by making it easier to pay and less burdensome for Londoners. We are currently consulting on the future of the existing Western Extension zone. The extension was brought in by the last Mayor in the face of fierce local opposition. We want to give the people of West London a chance to have their say.
How is the Low Emission Zone being developed?
The Low Emission Zone deals with emissions from lorries and vans, and has delivered impressive initial results, effectively persuading many fleet owners to clean up their vehicles. We have of course received representations from some groups who feel they are being unfairly included. Often it is not possible - for technological or other reasons - to separate out and exempt a certain group. That said, the Mayor has asked TfL to review the details of the Low Emission Zone to ensure it meets his objectives of improving the quality of the capital's air, while managing its impact on organisations and individuals in the capital.
What are your views on road pricing and road tolls as a form of revenue?
I don't think that anyone is going to happily embrace road pricing as another tax on the motorist. It is hard enough to sell the idea of road charging when there is a real environmental or congestion-related need - such as with the central London congestion charge. I envisage a tough time ahead for the government's plans on wider road pricing, particularly as everyone feels the pinch from the economic uncertainty.
What is your transport strategy for the period leading up to and during the Olympics?
Our strategy is to deliver the improvements needed to ensure a successful 2012 Games, alongside the developments needed to maintain and expand the transport system long-term. TfL is investing around £6.3bn on projects required and delivered by 2012.
To give more detail: By 2012 we will have completed the extension of the East London Line, and integrated it with a revamped London Overground network serving 20 London boroughs. We will have increased the capacity of the Docklands Light Railway by around 50 per cent, and concluded two major extensions to the network. The Canning Town to Stratford International extension will be vital for passengers arriving in Stratford, and the Woolwich Arsenal extension will link Greenwich with the London City Airport line at King George V station. It will provide a vital connection with local train and bus services, and enable spectators to see all the sporting action in the area.
We're also carrying out a huge programme of upgrades to the Underground network. The Jubilee line's capacity will be increased by 48 per cent, and our work to upgrade the Victoria, Central and Northern lines will also see capacity increased, plus better signalling and communication systems for more frequent and reliable services. Eleven rail lines will serve the Olympic Park and we'll continue to improve accessibility.
All of London's 8,000 buses and 21,000 cabs can already carry wheelchairs, and 25 per cent of tube stations will be step-free by 2010. We will also improve cycling routes and walkways around competition venues, which will provide more sustainable forms of transport for Londoners to benefit from long after the Games end.
What type of vetting system will you use when choosing contractors?
We demand a high level of experience and proven capability when assigning any contracts, and have robust and rigorous processes designed to ensure that projects are delivered on time and on budget, and offer real value for money.