London Mayor Boris Johnson and the capital’s business community are calling on any new government to back plans for improvements to London’s transport network.
Mr. Johnson asked ministers to provide continued backing for long-term investment in the capital’s transport because of London’s importance to the UK economy. He labelled the city “the motor of the UK economy” and warned that:
“If people in London can’t get to work on time, or if the London workforce can’t find anywhere to live in London or…near the city, then you’re going to starve that motor of fuel.”
The most ambitious of the proposals is Crossrail – a £16 billion overland rail network linking Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The line aims to make the commute from both outside and within London faster and easier. It would ease congestion at major commuter stations such as Liverpool Street, Farringdon, and Paddington. It is also a vital connection with the rebuilt and extended East London Line.
Work has already begun on Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon. Mr. Johnson argued that this work must continue and should not be delayed by a sense of false-economy. He said:
“You can’t save money by postponing or deferring Crossrail – you’ve got to get it done according to the current timetable.”
The likelihood of work continuing on Crossrail was called into question last month when Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Justine Greening, remarked that she could not give “a guarantee that [Crossrail] will continue” before seeing the results of the election. Asked to comment on this the Mayor stated that:
“I’m very confident that it will go ahead…the Conservatives are completely committed to Crossrail.”
The role of the next Government was discussed further as Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First made a plea for the creation of “a new axis of understanding between Government and business.” She stressed that:
“A position that is antipathetic to the wealth-generators is economically and politically unsustainable. We need jointly to agree how best to boost our economy.”
The Baroness said that Crossrail and the tube upgrades represent an opportunity for investment that delivers the maximum “bang” for the Government’s over-stretched “buck”. But she also urged that the UK’s full transport potential could only be realised if air travel is improved. She argued that we “can’t leave Heathrow at ninety-nine percent capacity”.
The proposal for a separate high-speed rail network between London and Birmingham was met with criticism by all speakers at the conference on Monday (10 May 2010) Baroness Valentine said that:
“investing in high-speed rail, if you haven’t sorted out Crossrail and the tube, is throwing good money after bad.”
Other proposals for the London transport network are for two new river crossings at Silvertown and Gallion’s Reach, and two additional stations south of the river on the Northern Line in the Vauxhall-Nine Elms area.