Globally our towns and cities are getting busier, with people migrating into centres to work and live, and as such our transport networks are coming under great pressure to perform. London is not immune to this issue and as the urban sprawl continues at pace, business leaders and local and national government will seek assurances that the wheels of commerce will not grind to a halt for failure of getting workers into and out of the capital and our regional cities. So, can we expect any new developments in 2019?
THE NEXT TRAIN ON THE PLATFORM…
The most obvious item to start with is the much feted and long-awaited addition to the London transport network, the Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail). The 73-mile line, 26 of which are under central London failed to open in December 2018 and the revised opening of Autumn 2019 has also been thrown out with no new date set. Whilst some are crossing their fingers for a 2019 launch, others are less optimistic. A fresh review of the project and calls for more funding to get the line active could take the project £3bn over budget and push delivery into 2020. This will come as a blow to businesses who sought to benefit from access to the new line.
As crucial as it is to London’s infrastructure programme, development delays on the Elizabeth Line are now impacting other projects such as upgrade works at Camden Town station and on the Piccadilly Line where funding has been diverted to the emergency pot for the Elizabeth Line. However, it is the Crossrail 2 project which aims to cut across London from north to south that has really been hit, resulting in doubt being cast over the project. It appears that ‘big infrastructure’ launch delays have spread south-of-the-river with recent reports stating that the official launch of the Northern Line extension to Battersea has been pushed back. Originally planned for 2020 it is now pencilled in for a 2021 start date. Although, this delay appears to have a little bit of logic at play, with the new timing coinciding with the redevelopment of Bank station, which has been in desperate need of remodelling due to overcrowding and poor layout. The station will feature new escalators, a new station entrance, lifts and moving walkways. Meanwhile, dealing with the ‘Holborn Problem’ has been pushed out further with another 5 years to wait until capacity upgrade begins at Holborn underground station. It seems as though all the best plans have gone a little awry over the past year, so in 2019 we expect to see City Hall, local and national governments revising their long-term infrastructure plans as a consequence. One thing is for sure, if the Mayor doesn’t get to grips with London’s creaking infrastructure then the next stop on his own journey almost certainly will not be no.10!
WAIT FOR THE GREEN MAN
Above-ground infrastructure woes continue and tackling overcrowding on our roads and pavements will certainly climb up the agenda over the coming year. In 2018, the City of London published draft plans to radically overhaul the Square Mile with pedestrianisation of over half of its streets by 2044, alongside cutting vehicle access, imposing lower speed limits and improving cycling access. In the West End, plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street suffered a setback with Westminster Council withdrawing support for the TfL scheme. Whilst the whole scheme seems to have been kicked into the long-grass we expect to see revised plans released this year. One project that is scheduled to come to fruition as early as March 2019 is Camden Council’s bus and bike only plan for Tottenham Court Road, effectively banning other vehicles between the hours of 8am and 7pm. Whilst this has its objectors, it seems as though the environmental benefits override the naysayers.
Successful schemes will be eagerly observed, not least of all by the Mayor of London’s first ever Commissioner for Walking and Cycling, who unveiled the capital’s first Walking Action Plan and will have a key stake in the £2.2bn investment for London’s street. Part of which is already being invested into the Old Street roundabout transformation starting this year which will aim to be safer for both cyclists and pedestrians in what has become a key office hub in recent years.
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS
On a national scale, the High Speed 2 rail link to Birmingham edges closer to a full construction as preparations and demolition works begin, heralding the start of Europe’s largest infrastructure development and the UK’s largest rail project. Taking to the skies, the redevelopment of London City airport is underway to deliver a larger and more efficient space. This is in contrast to the stalemate that has been reached on future development plans at London Heathrow and Gatwick. It seems as though the political will is starting to wane on some of these grand projects, especially when politicians are grappling with the little question of Brexit – the transport of goods is proving to be more of a priority at present.
2019 looks set to be a year of further debate and strategy on transport issues with very few big decisions being made in light of the current political environment. But what is not lost on both business and political leaders is that transport and infrastructure should not be overlooked, especially as the UK heads out on what looks like a relatively unpredictable journey.
THE ROAD AHEAD
In a fast changing and complex market, our ten predictions are not the only factors that could impact real estate decision making. To find out more about this report and the market, please get in touch.