Parts of the North and South Circular could be diverted underground, freeing up land for new housing and open space. This is just one of the headlines coming from ambitious new proposals for London's roads.
A plan published today by the Mayor’s Roads Task Force (RTF) sets out a new vision for the capital's road network, which simultaneously aims to improve traffic flow and road safety, enhance the public realm, create jobs and prepare the city for continued population growth. It'll cost £30 billion over 20 years. Did we already use the word ambitious?
It's a beefy, HGV of a report, with over 250 pages, and we've only yet had chance to read the executive summary, but the main proposals seem to be:
- Underpasses for traffic. The report makes mention of a 'potential orbital tunnel to relieve pressures on the Inner Ring Road and North/South Circulars'. It also calls for 'smaller scale flyunders' like the Strand underpass. The Evening Standard runs with the idea, suggesting such developments could free up space above ground for public parks, new housing and better surroundings for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Vauxhall, Waterloo, Elephant and Castle, Wandsworth and Old Street are all specified as hotspots for improvements, with elimination of gyratory schemes.
- More 20mph zones in central London.
- Better traffic management through use of technology, including adaptive SCOOT signals, and by behaviour changes such as getting more traffic to travel in off-peak hours.
- More ‘car-lite’ developments with good public transport, walking and cycling links.
- Big improvements to walking and cycling provision, including the recently published Mayor's Cycling Vision.
The full report contains much more detail and nuance on each aspect.
The RTF's proposals have been welcomed by both Transport for London, borough councils and the RAC, who dubbed the tunnelling aspects as "A Crossrail for cars". By contrast, Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pigeon thinks the underpass idea is 'nonsensical', costly and a throwback to the '80s.
It should be kept in mind, though, that this is only an initial report — a wobbling barrel of good ideas that will take some time to settle down into physical, fully costed reality. Feasibility and site-specific studies are at an early stage. Funding, which is roughly similar to money spent on rail improvements, would come from "TfL, boroughs, central government, developers and other stakeholders working collaboratively".