diamond geezer

 Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One things Mayors of London do, on a fairly regular basis, is to set out their plans for the future. Ken did it, Boris does it, it's an important part of what a Mayor's supposed to do. Done well it showcases a range of bold ideas setting the capital on course for expansion and growth, Done badly the cupboard is bare because the incumbent won't be around by the time most projects complete.

The latest document is The Mayor’s 2020 Vision, and sets out the stall for what will, should and might be happening when. A lot of the projects are transport related, because TfL have thousands of people and a budget committed to moving things forward. Some of the non-transport projects are a little woollier, because they rely on one adviser and a couple of admin assistants knocking up a policy or something and maybe getting it adopted.

This being the modern age, the Mayor's 2020 Vision is available in a variety of electronic media. There's a video, if you fancy watching a Boris-narrated cartoon for three minutes. There's an interactive map, which sounds great but isn't entirely practical, apart from showing up the paucity of what's happening round your way. There's a glossy report, with the Cheesegrater on the front and the Shard on the back, if you fancy fighting through 84 pages of aspirational text. And there's an interactive timeline, available "in 2D and 3D" (like that's important), to illustrate London's key projects going forward.

The timeline is brimming with dates, in a way the rest of the Vision isn't, and dates are good because they help us to hold plans to account. Don't assume too many of them are correct. A note below the timeline states "Please note, many of the dates on this timeline are indicative," which given the nature of things is only fair. It adds "the timeline will be updated as and when to reflect detailed plans for each project" which I'm not sure I believe because these reports are usually one-offs, but we'll see.

Interactive webpages rarely archive well, so I thought I'd extract the key points from the timeline and summarise them below in bog-standard text for posterity. It's fun to come back to reports like this in the future, and to laugh at the wildly optimistic dates scheduled for project completion.

Please note that I've paraphrased a few projects, abbreviated most, and tweaked the language somewhat to create categories. And be warned that the years given aren't necessarily deadlines, nor necessarily completion dates. Some of the pledges are a bit vague as to whether this is the planning stage, the construction stage or the delivery stage. But here's what Boris is aspiring to, for himself and for his successors, if the funding comes together...
Complete: Northern line upgrade 2014, Tube upgrade 2018, Crossrail 2018, fleet of 2000 New Buses 2020, Crossrail 2 2030, High Speed 2 2032
Deliver: World Athletic and Paralympic World Championships 2017, 75% automation on the tube 2019, tube wi-fi 2020, Ultra Low Emission Zone 2020, Team London Ambassador in every school 2020, Silvertown Tunnel 2021, tree cover increased by 5% 2025
Redevelop: Kings Cross 2013, Royal Docks 2014, Colindale 2018, Earl's Court 2018, Waterloo 2019, Upper Lea Valley 2020, Greenwich Peninsula 2020, Lower Lea Valley and Stratford 2020, Nine Elms and Battersea 2020, Park Royal/Old Oak Common 2030, Brent Cross/Cricklewood 2030
Regenerate: White City 2013, Croydon 2015-2017, London Bridge and Borough 2016, Wembley 2017, Woolwich 2020, Elephant & Castle 2020
Expand: Housing covenant 2014, Cycle Hire 2014, Canada Water science cluster 2017, Overground to Barking Riverside 2017, tube lines to Outer London 2030
Create: Med City 2014, link from Kensal Green to Crossrail 2016, more apprenticeships 2016 & 2020, London housing bank 2016
Build: London's new hub airport 2020, up to six electricity substations 2020, East London river crossings 2020, Thames Crossing east of Dartford 2024
Begin: Northern line extension 2015, plans for trams to Sutton and Crystal Palace 2016, Crossrail 2 2019, retrofit programme 2020
Reduce: Planning decision thresholds 2015, risk of flooding 2020
New station: Old Oak Common (Overground) 2016, Woolwich (Crossrail) 2018, London City Airport (Crossrail) 2018, single Euston-King's Cross-St Pancras interchange 2021, Brent Cross (Thameslink) 2022
Upgrade: Bank and Holborn stations 2021, three Wembley stations 2021
Improve: tube reliability 2015, the roads 2016, cycle safety 2016, Gospel Oak to Barking electrification 2017
Encourage: Tech City 2013, more housebuilding 2014, Outer London cycling 2016, Inner London cycling 2020, London Riverside 2020
I've left out all the waffly promises about "continuing", "progressing" and "making the most of", because they're empty words. I've also omitted plans where Boris can do nothing but "lobby" because they're the responsibility of Government... unless he is the Government by then, who knows. But that's still a fairly substantial list of future projects, unless you believe a two-decade plan for a world-class city ought to be rather more meaty than that.

There are a few things I don't remember seeing anywhere else before, either tied down so rigidly, or maybe ever. The timeline claims that "completing the Northern Line upgrade by separating the two central branches will reduce journey times by 18% and increase capacity by 20%." Hang on, I knew splitting the Northern line into two distinct parts was a long-term TfL aspiration, but sometime next year, seriously? Meanwhile how can a new Crossrail station for London City Airport be on the cards for 2018 when it's nowhere in current plans? And where's the idea come from to extend the Gospel Oak to Barking arm of the Overground to Barking Riverside. It's a good idea, in the absence of any money to extend the DLR, but is it really feasible?

History tells us that most of these plans will never happen, or will happen late, or will be seriously reduced in scope. But do come back in seven years time to check whether The Mayor's 2020 Vision was long or short sighted.

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