£30 Billion Plan For London’s Roads Announced

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.52.25Parts 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”.

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  • M

    Wait, so we have a bunch of politicians upset over the pricetag of HS2 (including Boris, slightly?), and then a project of this magnitude gets tossed out there? At very least it’ll lend some perspective on the importance and cost of these major infrastructure projects. Personally, however, I’m tempted to think the money would be better spent on more tube extensions, as there is the phenomenon of “induced demand” with city motorways, where traffic actually worsens with improved roads. However, certain aspects certainly make sense, such as the Hammersmith flyunder.

  • Andy P.

    Whoaa! We’re in the money again, eh? That’s good – not just more debt, then. I agree with the previous comment about upgrading the tube extensions to restrain demand for road usage. Underpasses seem like a good idea, with all that talk about housing and green spaces, but hugely expensive and disruptive for many years. Will anyone stick to ‘outline’ estimates of £30 B – it’s a Govt contract, after all? Getting rid of ‘gyratories’ could work, it’ll make journeys smoother, but reducing London to a stinking crawl, at 20 mph in built-up areas, is not much of a problem-solver – losing some of those innumerable additional traffic lights that litter street exits onto main roads and have seemingly replaced quite a number of zebra crossings would keep the traffic moving more smoothly…