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London is growing. By 2030 the capital’s population is expected to rise to 10 million, its highest level ever. There will also be hundreds of thousands of new jobs, many in central London.
David Leam from the Infrastructure Policy Team at London First tells Central Lobby the capital needs a major new rail link connecting south-west and north-east London – Crossrail 2.
How is London’s population forecasted to change in the next few decades?
The demographic forecasts are absolutely striking. The information from the census and captured in the London Plan, which is the strategic plan for London, is remarkable.
From where we are now, at around 8.2 million, the population will be up towards just under 10 million in 2030, and on track to become the largest the city ever has been.
London’s population peaked in 1939, shrank in the 1970s and 1980s and has been steadily growing ever since. The most recent census showed there are more people here than we previously thought.
We will have one and a half million more people here by 2030. In parallel with that we are expecting a growth in jobs – 700,000 more jobs and most of those will be in the centre.
That is what is fuelling the demand for transport. People need to get to work, to highly productive jobs, in London, which boosts the UK economy as a whole.
Crossrail 1 should be complete by the end of this decade and from day one we are expecting it to be very heavily utilised.
Why is Crossrail 2 a priority for London First?
This is particularly symbolic and important for us because it is where we came from as an organisation 20-odd years ago.
London First was created by senior business people in London who were worried about investment in the capital’s infrastructure. That was at a time when we did not have a mayor or a tier of London government – the GLC had been abolished.
We were worried about the drift to underinvestment. London First came together to lobby for the importance of infrastructure, and in particular to get behind Crossrail.
It was that very strong and deep business support for Crossrail, including support for helping to fund it, plus the cross-party consensus that enabled that project to happen and crucially made sure there has not been any backsliding.
Where are the gaps in transport infrastructure that won’t be filled by Crossrail?
Crossrail 2 targets the worst hotspots of congestion. If you look at central London, some of the areas that are forecast to be most congested by 2020 include the Victoria and Piccadilly lines, especially around Euston and Kings Cross.
Think about what it is like at Euston now. If you try to get on to a tube train at peak hours you won’t always be able even to get on to the platform. Even with some of the incremental upgrades we have got it is only going to get worse. That is a massive problem, and there is a similar one at Victoria, which is a heavily used station.
Crossrail 2 would relieve the entirety of the Victoria line, and much of the Northern and Piccadilly lines, all of which are forecast to see substantial growth in demand and congestion despite expected improvements from line upgrades.
Will this also have a knock-on effect on towns outside London?
In south-west London stations such as Wimbledon, Surbiton, and Twickenham will get significant extra capacity, service frequency and reliability, and substantially shorter journey times into central London – in some case more than halved.
The capacity that is freed up it provides additional train services for people as far away as Basingstoke and Southampton – an extra 100,000 journeys into London at the peak.
Will there be new tunnels?
Crossrail 2 is a south west to north east line, so there will be a new central tunnel between Wimbledon and Tottenham, with a spur to Alexandra Palace.
How will HS2 impact on London’s transport network?
I would stress that HS2 does not of itself create the need for Crossrail 2, which is a response to the continued growth of London and the congestion on key lines. HS2 adds to that.
However, now that we have firm plans for a high-speed rail network coming into Euston, we want to make sure people aren’t coming into London and saving lots of journey time, just to be stood on the concourse at Euston queuing to get onto the tube.
What is the timescale for HS2?
We are calling for leadership, drive and energy to press ahead on the planning and feasibility work and start building the case and the consensus.
We need to address the challenges of funding so that we can have this up and running by 2030. We have such big projects coming to an end at the end of this decade, such as Crossrail and Thameslink. We would like to see a continuation so the people and the skills involved in those projects shift over to work on the next generation of transport improvements in London.
How much will it cost?
The initial costing comes up with a figure of £12 billion for this scheme. It is a similar sort of scheme to Crossrail 1 with a stretch of tunnel under the centre, with National Rail on either side of it.
We have not done detailed work on financing but we would expect a similar sort of mix that was developed for Crossrail.
We certainly see the need for continued public investment in London’s transport. At the end of this decade the funding for Thameslink and Crossrail 1 will taper away.
Given that London is a growing city, that money will need to keep flowing in to pay for the next generation of infrastructure.