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What would a better London transport system look like? How do we get there from here? And what could the next Mayor do about it?

Andrew ZPSmith3 May 2016

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The next Mayor of Greater London has an easy time and a hard time ahead.

The incumbent has shown little intention to do much with the power of the office. So the new mayor won’t have to work too hard to look busy or effective, by comparison. That’s the easy time ahead.

But, in terms of managing London’s transport, they have a very hard time. For the first eight years of London’s new government, investment spanned all areas of transport, with vigorous interventions, and lots of long-term strategic planning and research. All that changed, with the change of mayor and the global financial crisis in 2008: in particular, the strategic planning and research capacities in Transport for London were cut back deeply. This is an apparently cheap strategy – a mayor that cuts long-term planning, but who had a predecessor who’d invested deeply in it, gets to live off yesterday’s investment, while leaving nothing for their successor. Like a farmer who only harvested and never sowed, there’s nothing at the next harvest. So when the next mayor wants to know what the long-term planning and strategic capacity is, they are in for a bit of a shock. And the picture gets worse: the money London receives from the Treasury to help meet the ongoing expenses its transport system, is to be phased out, leaving London with a £0.7bn shortfall. However, capital expenditure is still in place, and the go-ahead has been given for Crossrail 2. This a policy mistake that keeps getting repeated in transport in Britain: we invest in infrastructure, and then fail to provide for its operation and maintenance. (more…)