Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Sir! I propose to build a great railway linking your metropolis to the ports, spa towns, and coal fields of the West Country and Wales.
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson: Gosh, well, ah, that sounds all rather jolly good. I can image it now. The Barclays & co. Great Western Railway.
IKB: Ah, yes, Mr Mayor. Now there is just the matter of building the bridge over this river.
BJ: Bridge? Oh, yes, brilliant. A bridge, hey. One problem.
IKB: Mr Johnson?
BJ: Well, you see, this valley. It’s really quite narrow. Not too much room for bridges around here. And bridges, blimey, those things are expensive aren’t they? No, no, I can’t allow you to build a bridge. Not until you’ve proven that there is a real demand for this railway of yours. But you can build a bit of a bridge. A trial section of the bridge. We will monitor uptake and if it proves to be a hit, we will potentially allow construction of a bit more of the bridge, somewhere else on the river.
IKB: A bit of a bridge, Sir?
BJ: A bloody good bit of a bridge, I can tell you. There’s a bit of room. You can build one tenth of your bridge. Yes. It will be spectacular. One of the great industrial monuments of our city. The Mayor’s Loco Superskyway, they will call it. I am sure the people will flock to it.
IKB: Superskyway? You’re telling me to build a Supe– a bit of a bridge?
BJ: You’ll have to share it with boats, of course.
IKB: A bridge that’s… how would that even work?
BJ: You’re still thinking “bridge”. Think “Loco Superskyway” and it will all make perfect sense.
IKB: How will I get my passengers to Bristol or my coal from Newport?
BJ: Well, you know, you just load them onto your great new railway, bring the train along our fabulous new Mayor’s Loco Superskyway, and then where the Superskyway runs out you, you know, do whatever it is you do at the moment to shift passengers and coal, until you’re back on your railway at the other side.
IKB: The coal is currently transported by sea or canal.
BJ: Perfect. You’ll be right at home here. The river’s far less dangerous than most people think, you know. Only ten or twelve bodies wash up each month.
IKB: I rather think my passengers might object to being asked to swim their own railway carriages across the Thames.
BJ: Piffle. It’s a marvellous way to travel. More people are injured on land. We’ll organise Skywalks — one day each year we will drain the River Thames so that everybody can walk across it and see how enjoyable it is to cross the river under their own power. We’ll do everything we possibly can to encourage people. There’ll be 140,000 new passengers thanks to our Superskyway.
I’m not really sure where this joke is headed anymore. Much like a lonely piece of isolated bicycle path. It was only made out a sense that I owed you something, it turned out not to be as good as it looked at the beginning, it ran out without warning, and you don’t really see the point of it. But it was the best I could do, given other priorities.
(Cartoon nicked from an early ’90s Private Eye.)