London seemed to take stock of itself in 2000 and 2001 regarding growth and planning with the creation of the Transport for London and the production of the Urban White Paper. The former is the governmental agency in charge of all transportation aspects of Greater London. The later is the document or report calling for, “better design in cities and the provision of affordable homes”. Both serve as guides for dealing with the projected growth London will encounter in the future.
While the Transport for London is the agency tasked with the oversight of everything from a bike sharing program to the implementation of new rail lines and service the Urban White Paper serves to provide measures or goals for future development. “Planning policy guidance putting urban renaissance at the heart of the planning system; and a drive to implement planning policy on housing”, “Investing 180 billion pounds in a ten year plan for transport to modernize and upgrade out transport needs”, and a Neighborhood Renewal Reward Fund of 800 million pounds over three years, are a few examples of the proposals that the Urban White Paper supported moving towards greater density, more walkable neighborhoods and better access to public transit.
|London Crossrail Map|
The nexus of both of these can be seen in the planning, design and impact of the Crossrail transportation project across London. Crossrail is:
“[A] new high-frequency, high-capacity railway from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will connect the outer suburbs to the heart of the City and West End, as well as providing a quick route between central London and Heathrow Airport.”
Crossrail purports to:
“provide a 10% increase in London’s rail capacity, so it will relieve congestion on many existing rail and Tube lines. It will bring 1.5 million more people across London within a 45 minute commute of the key business districts of the West End, City and Docklands. It will be a modern service for the 21st century with energy efficiency technology being used from the start”.
Covering roughly 75 miles with ten new car trains while adding 40 new stations has already had the immediate impact of increasing property values throughout much of the proposed route and it has yet to even open. Slated for a 2018 ribbon cutting, property values, according to a report published by the firm Knight Frank, “will rise by 40% over the next five years”. The report continues to claim that, “average property prices within a 10-minute walk of the central Crossrail stations have already risen by 30% since 2008”. This might not be too much of a surprise as Crossrail is widely noted as the most significant upgrade in rail travel across the Capital since the Second World War.
The current Crossrail project also promises a ‘public realm investment’ of:
- 92,000 square metres of improved public space outside the new Crossrail stations in central London – the equivalent to four Trafalgar Squares or 13 football pitches – providing clutter-free public areas, wider pavements, new pedestrianized areas and additional traffic calming measures outside stations Improved public areas designed to integrate with local streets and buildings, stimulating future development and regeneration around Crossrail stations.
- New trees planted, along with new seating areas and meeting places.
- Transport interchange improvements including improved connections with buses, taxis, cycle parking, and walking routes with improved signage and way-finding.
There are a few other aspects of the Crossrails project that deserve attention. First is the ‘Community Investment Programme – SupportingLocal Communities’. This is a program, ‘the first of its kind for a major infrastructure project’, requiring Crossrail construction contractors to donate, ‘their skills, time, money and expertise to bring lasting benefit to the communities in which they are working'. Another issue of note is that while Crossrails has had huge impacts contingent to its development it has also spurred other large transportation projects across the city – most notably the Thameslink upgrade and Crossrails 2, providing better linkage from SW to NE London.
|Supporting Local Communities|
London continues to see itself as a ‘World City’ and seems to understand in much of its planning documentation over the last ten years that in order to better manage its projected growth while at the same time attempting to be competitive, attractive and livable it must better adapt and adopt many of the transit oriented development strategies to provide both the needed housing and infrastructure as well as the connectivity that a city like London demands.