The state of innovation

Articles, New ProjectsEditor

The last few months have been tough for innovation in London transport. Tom Edwards takes a look at the running of the New Bus for London and finds it lacking, while Dave Hill states that a lack of passengers on the Emirates Air Line seems to be its signature feature. Cue more (sensible) calls for the cable car to take travelcards.

These were two big projects which should have stood as a key part of anyone's legacy - a British designed eco-bus that helped UK manufacturing and can be sold across the world, and the introduction of a whole new mode of transport to London's travel network.

So what's the problem?

In the case of the cable car, it's cost and location. Run a system from the City to Canary Wharf and there's a natural and large market (Lord Foster's original idea). Make it part of the Oyster network and suddenly cost isn't a barrier. It would be sad for London if this experiment sank innovation in this area. It's success during the Olympics shows how it could work when the numbers were right.

With the New Bus the problems are less severe and are instead about perception - something which the Mayor and TfL should be careful to manage.

Elsewhere, innovation is strong - a few headlines:

For those who didn't click the links, they offer a driverless, air-conditioned Tube train and augmented reality navigation of the network. The stuff of the future is (almost) here.

But innovation doesn't have to be so huge or require massive infrastructure investment. That's why it terribly disappointing that the VIP (Very Important Pedestrians) Day on Oxford Street has been cancelled for this year. It wasn't just about boosting retail sales, but also reclaiming the streets for pedestrians and changing the mindset of those who took advantage.

Taking the public with you is key to any new transport scheme. With the cable cars it's seeing that they are useful and offer value for money. With the New Bus, it's about the facility of the rear platform and conductor. With driverless trains, it's safety and speed. With cycling, it's hitting the tipping point where sheer numbers speak to safety. With pedestrianisation, its simplicity and the joy of rediscovering London.

These nudges can help drive big changes in how Londoners navigate their city. The Mayor and TfL should not be afraid to use them, and to learn from them themselves.