If there’s one thing that Boris Johnson likes doing, it is pushing forward his various visions for grand infrastructure projects for London.
Johnson’s most passionately argued case has long been over Heathrow. He is vehemently against the building of further runways at the West London airport which he believes is a mistake. As he said, “why on earth entrench a huge planning error and expand Heathrow and consign future generations to misery?”
Instead of increasing the air traffic over London and the South East, Johnson proposed closing Heathrow and building a new airport over the Thames Estuary east of the capital.
That plan has now been rejected by the airports commission with new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow the only remaining possibilities for expansion.
Heathrow was by no means Boris’s only grand project however. We take a look at some of the other plans the mayor would like to see become reality.
London orbital railway
At the end of July, Boris unveiled a £1.3trillion infrastructure “wishlist” for London. A major element of the plans is an orbital metro-style railway, known as the R25 (a bit like the M25, but made of rails). The route would orbit the capital through zone 3 areas, with an emphasis on providing better transport in east London. Johnson estimates an 80% rise in demand for rail services by 2050 as the capital’s population swells to a projected 11 million inhabitants.
Will it happen?
The idea is similar to Tokyo’s Yamanote line – one of the city’s most successful and important train services. But will it translate? The plans look exciting, but with a timescale that stretches until 2050 and an outlay of £200bn it seems implausibly expensive and distant. Transport expert, and mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar said to the Guardian in August that “the dream of a London orbital railway is a good one. But this ‘announcement’ is typical of a Boris initiative, a brash idea that is suddenly produced out of the hat with no context, no genuine plan of how to achieve it and no assessment of whether it is the right idea.”
“A plethora of bridges”
Boris’s 2014 infrastructure wishlist also includes “a series of river crossings” east of the City. The consultation document calls for “a series of new river crossings in East London beyond the proposed Silvertown tunnel to overcome the major barrier effect which constrains travel between Thamesmead, Belvedere, Barking Riverside and Rainham”.
Boris himself said: “I would like a plethora of bridges. If you look at the number of bridges through central London and compare it to Paris it is absolutely absurd. This is the biggest growth area in Europe and we should be putting in more bridges.”
Will it happen?
There is plenty of support for more bridges. Labour’s Andrew Adonis has criticised Boris’s failure to take a more proactive position on bridge building, describing the Thames east of the City as “an unbridged chasm”.
However, there is also strong opposition to bridges from residents and environmental groups which say that more crossings will increase traffic and the capital’s already soaring pollution problem.
Orbital road tunnel
Among the crazier plans Boris has brought to the table is his idea for a 22-mile-long subterranean dual-carriageway. The tunnel, deep beneath central London, would cost £30bn to build, would include two Thames crossings, and would remove thousands of cars from the surface of the earth.
Deputy mayor for transport Isabel Dedring said: “This is not about creating a motorway through the centre of London. It’s about freeing up capacity on the city surface, improving air quality, and reclaiming space for public parks, pedestrians and cyclists.”
Will it happen?
Even Boris himself doesn’t seem to sure. Speaking to the evening Standard in May, he said: “There are big arguments in favour. There are obviously arguments against.”
Bakerloo line extension
After Boris’s success in lobbying for a Northern Line extension which is due to begin next year and will see the Northern Line reach Nine Elms and Battersea, his sights have been trained on a similar extension to the Bakerloo line.
The £2.6bn plans will extend the brown line into Camberwell and Peckham, and possibly overground to Bromley. Speaking in March, Johnson said the project’s “time has come”.
Will it happen?
A document accompanying a public consultation on the plans reveals it is thought that “an extension of the Bakerloo line will enable regeneration in a swathe of opportunity areas in need of regeneration in south east London,” and would have a benefit cost ratio of 3:1. However the document also gives an indicative date of 2040 for the extension, so we may not see it for another 25 years.