There are no shortage of large-scale projects on London's horizon. Certainly with CrossRail and the Olympics to be delivered, and a major upgrade to the Tube network to be carried out, the Mayor finds his hands full and budget stretched.
Each of these projects have competing demands and run the risk of large budgetary overruns. Good management and excellent relations with the Government are required in order to ensure that the fixed deadline of the Olympics does not mean cutting into the budget from other major projects. It will be a difficult tightrope for the Mayor to walk, especially given that many of the factors which may lead to increased costs are entirely out of his hands.
However, the Mayor must look beyond these currently agreed projects in order to balance the needs of Londoners in the future. This article will examine some of the projects which would both fit London well and deliver considerable benefits.
London's waterways: The Mayor was elected on a promise to increase river transport and has since spoken enthusiastically about the project. There is real opportunity for an increase in both the number and frequency of services operating on the river. Bringing the entire scheme under the auspices of the Oyster network would drive people to use the service who are currently put off by the high prices charged by ferry operating companies.
Away from the river, there are significant opportunities to be found in London's canal network. British Waterways are concerned about their long term ability to manage the cost of the canal infrastructure. An agreement brokered between Government, the Mayor and British Waterways could see a sharing of responsibility between passenger operating companies and those using the service to deliver freight (a service which would also help to reduce road congestion).
21st Century Routemaster: Perhaps the Mayor's most eye-catching campaign pledge, the "21st Century Routemaster" could actually solve many of the problems inherent on London's congested streets. Replacing bendy-buses with smaller footprint and higher yield buses such as Routemasters will immediately have an effect on congestion.
In addition, the re-introduction of Routemasters could actually save TfL's budget considerable costs over time. As LondonUnlocked has covered in earlier articles, the Routemaster, with attendant Conductor would see a significant cut of the estimated £50m 'stolen' each year by those dodging fares on buses. Over a number of years, TfL would make large savings due to the design and running of such a bus.
Thames Cycle Bridge: As covered by LondonUnlocked in earlier articles, the proposed thames cycle bridge will connect the Rotherhithe peninsular with the Isle of Dogs. Estimated to cost £65m to build, this project would be a much-needed element of the regeneration of Southwark, granting essential health, environmental, and economic benefits to the area.
TfL rightly points out that a £65m investment is too large for them alone, but with Canary Wharf being a principal benefactor, and given the Olympic tie-in, sponsorship and funding should not be difficult to find. Relatively small projects such as this one can make all the difference in transport terms to local communities.
- A Big Picture Project: Lord Rogers has proposed eight cable car schemes in the East of London, ferrying passengers over the river and to hubs such as Canary Wharf. Whilst not going into details with this project, which would be a bold re-imagining of London's transport network, it is important that such schemes are not pushed under the carpet. Delivering such projects, no matter how small, is essential to challenging the established norms.
Simply put, there is little extra capacity to be had on the Tube. Beyond adding another carriage or improving the signalling again, there will be little benefit for an ever-growing population. Projects such as this offer alternatives. Small pilot schemes, delivered on budget and on time prove that they are workable solutions to an ever-evolving problem.
These four projects offer pointers to genuine transport alternatives which would have profound effects on their local communities and to London as a whole. Each have their benefits and their flaws, but each also offer a viable alternative to the established wisdom.
London needs to keep moving. Transport hubs, whilst important, are irrelevant if the traffic reaching them has ground to a halt. Careful planning and surgically chosen schemes such as the above could make all the difference.
On Wednesday 13th, our sixth article will examine London's airports. The final article of the series will follow on Friday 15th, two days after that.
Check back here on Wednesday to see the next step in the Transport Manifesto.