IT took longer to get to Euston train station through the gridlocked bus routes than it did to travel from Euston to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Monday morning. The tube strike doubled journey times, the top decks of those buses had a soundtrack of sighing.
How then could I not pop into Transport for London’s fringe meeting in the bowels of the conference centre where TfL’s David McNeill (commissioner Peter Hendy wisely stayed in London on such a sensitive day) and Boris Johnson’s deputy Sir Simon Milton were proclaiming the industrial action had seen only a limited effect on London. The unions had, according to McNeill, not got what they wanted. London had not been paralysed. This verdict was slightly muddied when Transport Minister Theresa Villiers arrived late from another event and talked of how she was very concerned about the situation back in the capital.
McNeil insisted it was “a strike about nothing”, as there would be no compulsory redundancies at TfL. He said instead that ‘efficiency savings’ would largely cover orders from on high to cut spending. The efficiency saving is of course a familiar magic ointment which gets reeled out without much detailed explanation when cuts are prescribed. Not here. A mini run-down of what they entail was provided. The stationery cupboard at TfL for instance is, according to McNeill, being cut back. The printing of business cards will be limited.
…and sandwiches will no longer be ordered in for board meetings. In fact, the complimentary refreshments at this very fringe meeting, McNeill said, could be the last ever on offer. There was a look of horror among those delegates snaffling the delectable caerphilly tarts, roast beef and cream cheese and herb strudel.
I can exclusively confirm: There wasn’t a cheese and pickle sarnie in sight.