Memorandum by The Corporation of London
OVERCROWDING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1. The City's function as the world's leading
international financial and business centre is heavily dependent
on an efficient and attractive integrated transport system to
move large numbers of people daily and to enable the efficient
servicing of its main activities. Public transport access is vitally
important for the City of London. Up to a third of a million commuters
come to work in the City each day and around 91% of them travel
by rail, Underground or bus. This compares with 80% for central
London, 42% for inner London and 18% for outer London. Notably
the figure for the rest of the country is 14%, which shows how
much more London relies on its public transport services.
2. One factor bearing on the City's international
competitiveness is its ability to draw upon an extensive catchment
area for its jobs; this attracts people who live in outer London
and beyond and one third of public transport trips to the City
originate outside greater London. For these people, rail is the
only public transport option. The high dependency on rail means
that all issues affecting rail travel are of great importance
to the City.
3. The City economy is important both to
London's and the nation's economy. The number of people employed
in the City by 2016 is expected to increase by 93,000 (on 2000
figures) to 424,000. There is also predicted to be over 50,000
additional jobs in the `City Fringe' by 2016. It is vital that
public transport is upgraded to keep pace with these changes.
There is a need for increased capacity and reliability improvements
to ensure the future prosperity of City and to provide for new
developments in City and fringe areas. If this growth is stifled,
then the City and fringe boroughs could all suffer.
4. The Corporation argues that the provision
of public transport has fallen well behind the need to sustain
the economic vibrancy of London. Employment in inner London has
increased by 17% and population has also increased by 8.4% in
the 1990s alone. It is not surprising therefore that travel demand
|Overall travel demand
||+ 14% since 1993|
|Rail||+ 21% since 1993
|Bus||+ 20% since 1992
|Private car||- 9% since 1992
5. There has, however, been no significant upgrade to
the central London transport infrastructure in the last 20 years
with the exceptions of the Jubilee Line Extension and the DLR
Bank extension, constructed primarily to benefit the satellite
development area of Docklands. This could be viewed as diverting
essential transport investment away from the centre (working population
1.2 million) to the Docklands (working population 50,000). Slow
progress on other vital improvement schemes such as Crossrail
and Thameslink 2000 has also been disappointing.
6. The inevitable result of this growth in demand, combined
with lack of investment in essential maintenance and new infrastructure
over many years, is that overcrowding is now endemic, affecting
all forms of public transport serving the City. With the system
operating beyond its maximum planned capacity, overcrowding is
inextricably linked with delays, unreliability and service disruption.
7. On rail for weekday peak travel times, according to
the Strategic Rail Authority figures (2001) every train operator
in London carried loads in excess of planned capacity (planned
capacity typically includes 35% standing spaces to seats). Overloads
ranged from 1.6% to 9.8% in the morning peak (a three hour period),
but this disguises a far worse situation for the peak hour itself.
8. Congestion on mainline trains is mirrored by conditions
on the Tube. Passenger growth is up 8% over 10 years resulting
in "very crowded" or "crowded" conditions
dominating central London during the 7am-10am period. Conditions
on the Central Line are of particular concern to the City.
9. In London overall bus passenger journeys have increased
by 15% to 1.35 million in the last decade but the total distance
covered by buses has also increased, by around a third, with the
result that average bus occupancy has actually decreased. Nevertheless
this overview disguises the fact that peak period overcrowding
and unreliability are commonplace. Observations in the City have
noted many commuter bus routes with all seats already filled and
reliability adversely affected by excessive delays and bunching.
Plans to provide an extra 10,000 spaces (not necessarily seats)
on buses for the busiest hour, in connection with the introduction
of congestion charging, seem inadequate with, in consequence,
standing room only in prospect for the future.
10. In meetings with the Corporation, City businesses
consistently rank transport problems as amongst their major concerns.
As a result of the City's concern over the economic costs of overcrowding
and other inefficiencies in the public transport system, the Corporation
intends to commission a research study to quantify effects on
the City economy. Key issues for the study will include the effects
of overcrowding on journeys to work, business travel and the overall
attractiveness of the City as a business location.
11. The overall cost implications of lateness at work,
loss of productivity, sickness absence, missed and rescheduled
meetings and lost business due to public transport overcrowding
and delays are considered to be significant. There is also concern
that transport difficulties have an impact on the recruitment
and retention of staff with consequent cost implications. Public
transport overcrowding also affects the attractiveness of the
City for inward investment if employers are faced with staff who
are tired, stressed and uncomfortable on arrival at the workplace.
12. Although due in part to greater distances travelled,
the average travel time to work in autumn 2000 for central London
was 56 minutes, more than twice as high as the Great Britain average
of 25 minutes. Addressing the travelling conditions for London
commuters would therefore seem a priority but this has not been
the case. The implication is that London commuters are not only
having to endure overcrowded and unreliable travelling conditions,
but for longer periods than elsewhere in the country. This is
hardly befitting the quality expected for our capital city.
13. With services over-subscribed on networks incapable
of absorbing any more passengers, the expected growth of population
in London will, therefore, have difficulty in accessing new jobs
by public transport. With the roads virtually at a standstill
the options seem to be either adding to congestion or relocating
elsewhere. Loss of jobs and a reducing economy are factors that
London and the UK cannot risk.
14. Whilst our competitors overseas have added their
third, even fourth, new transit schemes into their cities, Londoners
are putting up with an old, unreliable system and conditions of
extreme congestion. Major relief of overcrowding is therefore
vital to sustain London in its present role as economic powerhouse,
and extra capacity is also needed to provide for the future.
The Way Ahead
15. The existing central London railway network cannot
reasonably carry any more trains. All peak period terminal station
platform capacity is taken up and modern crash prevention systems
being introduced (TPWS or Train Protection and Warning Systems)
actually reduce the system throughput. The SRA's capacity utilisation
strategy may result in some marginal benefits but what is really
required are new rail lines to relieve the existing assets. In
particular key schemes, such as Crossrail and Thameslink 2000,
together can benefit the whole of London by relieving overcrowding
and bringing faster access to jobs, markets and London airports.
The Corporation argues that these are the two schemes London really
needs to maintain competitiveness.
16. Crossrail is a relatively affordable project and
could be built in phases firstly to relieve gross overcrowding
in central London, particularly the Central line, and then link
to existing radial routes. Further expansion could, subject to
finance, be also linked to growth projects such as Stansted, a
potential Olympic Stadium and the Thames Gateway as these areas
17. Uncertainty of funding and past low investment levels
have created a hand-to-mouth existence for the Underground, but
the Corporation welcomes the positive moves made by the Secretary
of State to speed up the investment in this key mode. Funding
of £6 million a day can be expected when the PPP comes into
force which could secure early improvements in the replacement
of rolling stock on the District and Metropolitan Lines, upgraded
capacity and signalling on the JLE and, perhaps most critically,
increased signals, track and carriage maintenance to improve overall
system reliability for the benefit of all users. The Underground
upgrades can add 15-20% new capacity across the system, but this
may unfortunately take 15 years.
18. Buses appear to some to be a "quick fix"
solution. However, costs are rising (according to the TfL business
plan) at an inordinate rate for buses and will double by 2005.
The number of people needing to access central London from the
suburbs suggests that some of this investment is, perhaps, better
suited to light rail or tram alternatives with their far higher
capacity and quality. The Corporation is especially keen to promote
the Cross River Partnership's London Tram project, linking Kings
Cross, Waterloo and beyond as it offers enormous additional public
transport capacity and regeneration potential north and south
of the Thames.
19. The main issue with buses is reliabilitybunching
and long gaps in service lead to overcrowding and poor travelling
conditions. Bus priority measures are helping but there is still
a major problem with disruption due to badly planned or unplanned
road works. Deregulation of the Statutory Undertakers in the 1990's
gave many of the new utility companies the right to dig up roads,
greatly weakening the management ability of Highway Authorities
(less than 20% of holes are either planned or notified in advance).
Mayoral policies in favour of soft modes, such as pedestrians,
have further removed traffic signal "green time" from
road traffic. Street congestion and journey time unreliability
is consequentially severe in central London. Very little resilience
remains in the road network which consequently means that severe
congestion is becoming increasingly commonplace (recent examples
include Vauxhall Cross and the Shoreditch Triangle). Action is
urgently needed to address this issue.
20. It is hoped that the Secretary of State's interest
in Crossrail will lead to firm actions and approval to proceed
in the near future. The promotion of Thameslink 2000 by the SRA
is also welcome. These are the two most critical schemes for reducing
overcrowding and bringing the central London public transport
services up to the level and quality worthy of a World City. Prompt
action to implement the Cross London Tram and to properly regulate
streetworks is also a pressing requirement.
21. Transport solutions extend beyond the life of most
elected administrations. Consequently, transport has not received
sufficient priority in the past leaving London with today's problems.
It is essential, however, that these issues are now tackled with
some urgency if London is to continue to prosper in the future.
City Remembrancer's Office