The Mayor has his hands full. In delivering projects as diverse as the Olympics, CrossRail, East London Line extensions, Tube upgrades and a major bike rental scheme for London, discipline is needed to ensure that all are completed on time and on budget. This is not an easy task. In the case of many of these schemes, the chances of overruns are high and sometimes out of the Mayor's hands.
However, despite the number of significant capital schemes currently in delivery, there is no room for complacency when looking at London's transport future.
London continues to grow at a substantial pace. The Mayor's own figures estimate the city to grow by 700,000 people by 2016 - the year before CrossRail comes on stream. Already the transport network creaks in places, and the predicted influx of new residents will have to be well managed as to not bring the situation to crisis.
Significant headway can be made on the existing network through upgrade work and the tying together of different services. In managing the transition from car to bike and bus travel, the Mayor's office is already concentrating on the strain that such shifts would put on the network as it stands. Such efforts are admirable.
However, the extra capacity granted by CrossRail, Tube upgrades, Javelin and new East London Line services will not last forever. CrossRail - mooted by Brunel in the 1840's - will have taken almost 150 years from first utterance to finished product. The modern incarnation of the project will have taken 43 years to get running by the time the first passengers board.
The Mayor and Government need to look seriously at the long term development of London, and to start planning for it now. Such planning means the following:
- working with Business to change the culture of 'presenteeism' and to allow employees to work from home
- engaging developers to include genuine live/work opportunities in the new communities which they build
- tying together the strands of TfL's network to ensure that all pull in the same direction to reduce congestion
- looking at relatively low-cost, local, projects which will have a considerable effect on local transport trends
- considering what follows CrossRail. Looking at large-scale projects which not only transport people across London, but the centre too
- making the case for a new airport for London, connected with high-speed rail links to the sister airports, central London, and other major cities.
These are not small challenges, but in aiming for a efficient 21st century solution to the transport problems faced by London, they should be met.
It is only through the able management of the existing network combined with the introduction of new transport mediums - better suited for a city which aims to be low-carbon - that the increasing strain placed upon London can be managed.
Such lofty plans require funding, and this is why it is essential that the Mayor proves capability in holding the budgets and timelines of the major capital projects which he currently guides under control. Excellent, mutually understood relationships with Business and Government are necessary to get the best deal for London, and the best deal for those who work and employ here.
2012 brings the Olympics, 2017 Crossrail. What follows that should already be the subject of fervoured discussion at City Hall. If it isn't, then that discussion must start, now.
Many thanks for taking the time to read these pieces. Normal service will resume on Monday 18th.