TfL has made mistakes like this before – they sold the Metro licence for £1m when it started in 1999.
But actually City Hall sets the price and Barclays paid it. And unlike the newspaper distribution rights, this scheme has a very clear precedent: Velib.
The Paris scheme started with 10,000 bikes and cost JCDecaux €90/£80m. By that measurement, London’s scheme (6,000 bikes) was valued at £50m. But the big difference is the amount of branding. In Paris, the bikes are unbranded but JCDecaux gets to sell billboard rights, in London, Barclays gets 15,000 of its logos all over town and roads painted in its colour.
Also, let’s not forget that Boris said that: “We will broker a deal with a private company to bring
thousands of bikes to the capital at no cost to the taxpayer.” Well, the scheme cost £165m, and the ‘private company’ only pays for 15% of that. The taxpayer is paying the other 85%.
All you have to do is look at how much Emirates paid for the cable car naming rights, and Barclays £50m starts to look very, very cheap.