London beat Manchester and Edinburgh, but withdrew at last minute. Race now set to begin in Germany
The world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France, was set to return to London in 2017, after the capital successfully beat off competition from Edinburgh, Manchester and several German regions to win the bid, but it has emerged that London withdrew its bid at the 11th hour, citing funding concerns.
TfL’s decision means the race will not just be lost from London, but from the UK entirely, with the start now expected in Germany.
“To ensure value for money we must make difficult choices,” Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL, said to the BBC.
“We have always said that the return of the Tour was subject to funding.”
Economic own goal
The Tour has huge value to the UK.
London was host to the finish of stage three of the race in 2014, which cost TfL £6m. The previous two days of racing gave a boost to Yorkshire’s economy of over £100m, the BBC reports.
London also hosted the Grand Depart, as it is known, in 2007, spending £6m hosting it, and getting a return of £65.5m according to a report commissioned by TfL.
Meanwhile, global interest in the sport has surged and it is enjoying a sponsorship boom. A spike in interest from countries outside Europe such as the United Arab Emirates, and the US have seen sponsorship revenues soar, while in Europe the event has become more popular than ever with increased interest from Italy and the Netherlands.
TfL’s decision to pull out of the Tour de France will mean London’s economy will lose out on tens of millions of pounds.
This is due in part to the prospect of more cuts to public spending under George Osborne, including transport budgets.
But Transport for London will still continue to spend the £30m promised for funding Boris Johnson and Joanna Lumley’s Garden bridge project, while the Department for Transport will contribute a further £30m. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Johnson has also promised to underwrite the maintenance costs of the bridge to the tune of £3.5m a year, at the taxpayer’s expense.
Work is now underway on two new cycle lanes in London, but TfL underspent its cycling budget between 2008 – 2014 by an astonishing £150m. Even TfL’s former boss, Sir Peter Hendy described it as “frankly, an embarrassment”.
Other major failures TfL will continue to shell-out huge amounts of money for include the £60m cable car project, which doesn’t even cover its running costs, and the introduction of Boris’s new “roastmaster” buses as they are unaffectionately-known, which run on diesel 90% of the time due to widespread failure of the electric batteries. The initial order of 600 buses cost TfL (i.e. taxpayers) £180m, while employing conductors to man the unnecessary open back entrance costs £40m a year. A replacement programme for the failing electric engines is expected to cost in the region of £20m.
TfL currently spends just 1% of its budget on cycling, despite up to 64% of vehicles on some main roads being bicycles and a quarter of all rush hour journeys being made by bike.
As cycling grows in popularity, events such as the Tour de France cement the idea of London as a cycle-friendly city – something which is desperately needed to help reduce chronic congestion and sky-high levels of pollution.
For a mayor who claims to champion cycling in London, Boris’s record is desperately poor.