London’s outgoing mayor, Boris Johnson, has set out a range of strategic initiatives that he says will be needed to prevent significant increases in road congestion across the capital.
Mr Johnson is proposing two major east-west cross-city tunnels to be built over the next 20 years and a series of mini-tunnel ‘flyunders’.
The mayor has also called on the Government to devolve Vehicle Excise Duty to provide a ‘funding stream to be able to dramatically improve the capital’s roads’.
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He has asked Transport for London (TfL) to explore whether that revenue could be integrated with other charges to create a single way of paying for road use ‘without asking London motorists to pay any more’.
City Hall also says that work is underway to understand the pros and cons of ‘a freight ban or charge at certain times of day for certain vehicle types’.
The new proposals follow a call from engineers for a ‘radical’ new approach to funding to ensure that London ‘gets the infrastructure it needs’, including a review of road user charging.
City Hall says transport improvements during Mr Johnson’s term of office have allowed the capital’s road network to support its ‘rapid population growth and intensifying development’.
But it says Mr Johnson’s proposals will be needed to manage ‘the extra one million trips per day that are being added to the capital’s transport network every five years’. Without these changes, it claims, ‘congestion could potentially increase by 60% over the next 15 years in central London, 25% in inner London and 15% in outer London’.
However, TfL’s latest Travel in London report reveals that the number of people entering central London by private car in the weekday morning peak fell by 53% between 2000 and 2014.
The BBC projects that on present trends more cyclists than car drivers will enter central London during rush hour in a few years’ time.
One tunnel being considered, the ‘Northern Cross City Corridor’ would run from the A40 at Park Royal to the A12 at Hackney Wick. City Hall says further feasibility work is currently underway, which includes ‘looking at alternative options including an orbital tunnel’.
A second tunnel could be built to link the A4 in Chiswick with the A13 in Beckton.
Transport for London officials say up to nine mini-tunnels or flyunders could ‘unlock housing and provide significant regeneration benefits’, such as providing new land for walking, cycling, new housing and public space and developing new areas of London, as well as relieving congestion.
Boris Johnson said: ‘Our major programme of capital investment in the city’s roads is transforming neighbourhoods across the city, making our roads safer, and cleaning up our air. But we need to go further. By pushing forward strategic initiatives we are outlining today, we will lay the foundation for the next wave of improvements to everyone’s experience of the road network across the city.’
Richard de Cani, TfL’s managing director of planning, said: ‘With London’s population set to soar over the next few decades we need to take a different long term approach to how we use London’s road space, to manage capacity and better utilise valuable land for housing and creating public spaces.'
However, Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson said the proposals were out of step with the recent shift away from car use and called on the next mayor to cancel these plans on their first day at City Hall.
He said: ‘Car use has plummeted by half in this area since 2000. It is therefore baffling that the mayor is announcing plans for more underground motorways in the city centre. Cyclists are the fastest growing group of road users in the capital so we need to build more cycle lanes, not road crossings. They won’t meet London’s needs as the city develops.’