The Greater London Authority sets out a $2.2 trillion infrastructure wishlist

The Greater London Authority (GLA) yesterday published a wishlist of the infrastructure it says the city needs to keep functioning over the next 36 years, over which time its population is forecast to grow from a little over 8 million to somewhere around 11.3 million. 

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050, which was drawn up with the help of consulting engineer Arup, is the first attempt to devise a strategic investment programme for London since the Second World War. It sets out a $2.2 trillion bill of works that would renew the capital’s houses and schools, upgrade its electricity supply system, strengthen its flood defences and install a number of new rail lines. In terms of numbers the report calls for: 

  • 1.5 million extra homes
  • 600 schools and colleges
  • A 20% increase in electricity generating capacity
  • 40 waste handling facilities
  • 70% increase in public transport capacity
  • 200km of "cycle highways
  • Six river crossings, including a "Garden Bridge" that would link the South Bank with the Temple Underground station

According to the report, about $760bn of investment in rail, road and air facilities will be needed to keep the capital mobile in 2050. 

Among the rail schemes proposed would be a brand new north-south Tube line and an overground equivalent to the Circle Line: a fast orbital route that would link the Capital’s inner boroughs. At present rail lines are organised like the spokes of a wheel, so that commuters usually have to go into the centre of the city if they want to make a lateral journey. 

This line, which is known to London planners as the R25, would be complemented by the Crossrail 2, which would link Wimbledon in the south-west with Hackney in the north-east. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said this should be approved "as a matter of urgency", and suggested that more Crossrails could follow.

Sir Peter Hendy, the commissioner of transport for London, said the arrival of HS2, the high-speed link to northern England, into Euston station meant the GLA has no more than 15 years to put Crossrail 2 in place. He said: "If HS2 gets there before Crossrail 2, there will an awful lot of people walking around Euston because they won’t be able to get on the Tube."

The mayor reiterated his wish to build a series of new river crossings and an inner orbital road tunnel that would be used to get freight lorries off the capital’s overground road network.

Johnson, who is also hoping to sponsor a four-runway airport a in the Thames estuary, said the infrastructure plan was a "wake-up call to the stark needs that face London over the next half century".

He said: "Without a long-term plan for investment and the political will to implement it, this city will falter. Londoners need to know they will get the homes, water, energy, schools, transport, digital connectivity and better quality of life that they expect." 

Where will the money come from?

The UK public sector’s track record as a construction client over the past 15 years has been mixed. For example, Building Schools for the Future, the government’s attempt to carry out a $76bn renewal of the English and Welsh secondary school system, was widely considered a failure, and was abandoned after five years. 

On the other hand, it has a better reputation when it comes to schemes with a more defined scope, that can be carried out with in conjunction with the construction industry’s programme managers. T

he High Speed 1 rail line and the Olympic estate are generally considered to have been successful projects, and Crossrail 1 is progressing on time and budget. 

However, the scale of the spending envisaged by the Arup report is unprecedented in London’s history, and twice the rate of expenditure over the past 20 years. 

The report estimates that the public sector will have to pay for about 60% of the cost of the construction. 

Alexander Jan, Arup’s director of transaction advice, says this means there will have to be an increase in the tax raising powers of the GLA.

In a recent opinion piece he pointed out that that the mayor and London boroughs "will need to be given greater control of London’s local taxes and to have much more say in how utilities are planned and delivered".

He said just 7% of London’s taxes are controlled by the mayor and the boroughs compared with nearly 50% in New York.

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