In the third part of our round-up of London's news in 2014, we're taking a look at the capital's infrastructure, from garden bridges to the Olympic Park, after Boris Johnson released his £1.3trn infrastructure plan in August.
Bridges and roads
With the news that the Garden Bridge got approval in December, we asked what it's for. It's been one of the biggest infrastructure stories of 2014, with opinion divided on how much Londoners will actually benefit from it (and end up paying for it). Some commenters on our article about moving the cable car suggested a combination garden bridge/cable car which is certainly an interesting prospect.
The question of river crossings in east London has reared its head yet again, with TfL opening a consultation on tolling the existing Blackwall Tunnel and its future neighbour, the Silvertown Tunnel. The proposed tunnel has drawn fierce criticism over congestion, air quality and road planning, with the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on one side and local campaign groups on the other. We thought it was a bit unfair to impose tolls on just the east London crossings, so we speculated on how much money could be raised from tolling all of the capital's crossings (a lot).
Other slightly odd transport proposals included plans for a 22-mile ring underground ring road, the 'Bounceway' (an urban trampoline), a flexi-lane using intelligent road studs and dynamic signs and turning parking spaces into mini parks.
Cycling infrastructure has become big news. We're waiting with bated breath to find out who the new sponsor of the cycle hire scheme will be, after TfL announced in June that they were looking for someone to stump up some cash and have their logo splashed around. Meanwhile, new docking stations are opening up all over the place, including in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, bringing the number of bikes up to 10,000 at over 700 docking stations.
Much as the Tour de France brought crowds of people and good cheer to London, claims about TfL's use of cycling infrastructure budget underspend to pay for it were met with criticism.
Back in September, routes for what's been called 'Crossrail for bikes' were announced to bring long-campaigned-for segregated cycle lanes to London's roads. And that's not all, oh no. TfL also announced that the first two 'Quietways' — less busy routes to encourage the less confident onto bikes — would open in early 2015. Some of London's most unpleasant and dangerous junctions are also in for an overhaul, with plans released for Vauxhall, Old Street and Stockwell Cross.
The winning bidders for the Mayor's 'Mini-Holland' scheme were also announced, with each of the four boroughs to get £30m to improve cycling infrastructure. The plans for Waltham Forest's were released in November.
Crossrail and Crossrail 2
Probably the biggest rail infrastructure project in London in modern times, Crossrail has turned parts of the city into a forest of hoardings, plant machinery and high vis jackets. It's extending out towards Reading and possibly into Hertfordshire.
With focus on the accessibility (or lack of it) for disabled passengers on public transport, it was good to see TfL announce that all Crossrail stations would be step-free.
A TfL consultation in 2013 showed that a Crossrail 2 route which extends into Hertfordshire and Surrey was overwhelmingly popular. Though as we noted at the time, when TfL start demolishing someone's favourite pub to build it then we think opinion might shift. The route changed again in June, but Boris Johnson reckons it'll be built by 2030.
Now known as the infrastructure proposal that refused to die, the Thames Estuary airport (or Boris Island as it's been known) was put out of its misery in September by the Davies Commission. Given its previous zombie-like re-animations, we wouldn't be surprised to see it back on the agenda when Boris Johnson gets back into Parliament.
Meanwhile, drawings for the proposed Heathrow City were released in July, giving us an idea of what it might look like if the existing airport was relocated. Which doesn't look all that likely now that Boris Island's been torpedoed. Not bad for £900,000 though.
City Airport caused all kinds of fuss in September after it was revealed that local residents had not been consulted over flight path changes. And in December, a technical glitch closed London's airspace for several hours.
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park reopened in April after being closed for nearly two years. At the same time, the ArcelorMittal Orbit opened its viewing platform, prompting a rush for tickets to look across the park from the UK’s tallest sculpture. Here's our video of some of the Olympic Park's best bits, and a podcast from the top of the Orbit tower — which was to be turned gold if England won the World Cup. It would have come as no surprise to anyone that it stayed red. The Olympic Park will also form part of Boris Johnson's proposed 'Olympicopolis', a project to boost jobs and wring £5.2bn economic value from the local area.
In August, the park hosted part of the first Invictus Games. Championed by Prince Harry, the Games brought together 400 injured servicemen and women to compete in sporting events.
Great Scott! In July, the park nearly didn't make it back to 1955 when the immensely-popular Secret Cinema Back to the Future event was postponed at short notice, prompting an international outcry and some rather extreme reactions. It got started again a week later and everyone calmed the fuck down.
London's al fresco swimming community got some good news in February when the Mayor agreed to look at the feasibility of a Thames-based lido. Here are a couple of the designs which actually look rather tempting.