What will the capital look like in 20 years time?

Two London buses: this many more people are estimated to arrive in London every day. Image: Matthew Lloyd/Getty.

The first in a three part series looking at the future of the capital, presented by Transport for London.

This time: what powers does the city need to thrive?

Forget the sky cycle tracks, hover cars and drones. What you need to know about London of 20 years hence is already happening now: it’s growing rapidly.

The city is already bigger than it has ever been, with 8.6m residents. Each day, the equivalent of two bus loads of people is added to that. Every week, two Tube trains full of people move to the capital. That’s 100,000 extra residents each year.

By 2030, there will be 10m people living here. That growth is the equivalent of adding the populations of Birmingham and Glasgow. 

For the city’s planners, that means further investment in and modernisation of its transport networks now. Thirty million journeys are made every day in London. The city relies on millions of workers coming from across the south east, and has to handle around 19 million tourists every year.

A new mayor, elected in 2016, will have to devise strategies and measures to make sure the capital can harness this enormous growth and development, keeping it moving and growing, and ensuring businesses can keep competing with those in other great world cities and continue to power the UK economy.

As the only UK city with a fully integrated transport network, with the power to plan over the long-term, London is in a good place to manage its challenges. Crossrail 1, which will increase rail capacity by 10 per cent, will open in 2018; and upgrades to the Tube network are gradually turning a Victorian network into one of the world’s most reliable and frequent metro services.

But while the next mayor has more power than other UK cities to deal with strategic challenges, the toolbox is not complete compared with those available to other world cities. Paris, for example, has a funded plan which covers its infrastructure needs up to 2036. Work begins next year.

Some 68 per cent of the cost of Crossrail has come from the people who will most benefit from enhanced connectivity

A huge amount has already been done to modernise London’s transport networks and improve services. TfL is now Europe’s largest merchant of contactless cards, making customer journeys more seamless than ever before. The Victoria line is one of the most frequent services in Europe.

TfL is reworking the bus network to respond to changing demand by using Big Data, and opening up real-time feeds to app developers to make the network easier for customers to use. And the transport system is increasingly accessible, enabling more people to get around.

However, technology isn’t a silver bullet. For the fundamental challenges the city faces, the solution must include greater devolution of powers. That, as proposed by the London Finance Commission, should include fiscal policy, to enable the city to raise the investment required for the future. Giving the next mayor more power to plan for the long-term and raise funding for key projects could be transformative for the city.

The reality is that the way we fund transport infrastructure is changing. Major projects have to maximise non-government sources of funding in order to be sustainable.

These packages are best assembled at city region level, by asking those who benefit most from the project to contribute to it. Some 68 per cent of the cost of Crossrail, for example, has come from the people who will most benefit from enhanced connectivity. The cost of the Northern Line Extension, which will support 24,000 jobs and 18,000 new homes, is being met by the increased land values the scheme will unlock, backed by a guarantee from the Treasury.

TfL’s buses are built in Ballymena, and its trains in Derby

With more powers to use innovative finance mechanisms and capture the increased land value resulting from transport projects, the next mayor could leave a significant stamp on London for decades to come.

And as well as building new infrastructure, devolution could support other key targets: improving house-building as part of major schemes, and boosting productivity by focusing on connectivity.

That won’t just help Londoners. A strong capital city supports the national economy. TfL’s supply chain supports 60,000 jobs outside London. Its buses are built in Ballymena, and its trains in Derby.

Fiscal devolution to the Capital must be a key part of the government’s devolution agenda. As well as handing powers to the Northern Powerhouse, and improving connectivity in the Midlands Engine for Growth, the government should also put more power in the hands of Londoners.

Without fiscal devolution, the city’s ability to handle population growth might be challenged as its vital transport networks become increasingly overcrowded and congested, limiting its potential and growth. With it, the next mayor can better plan not just for what London will look like in 20 years time, but also in 40 years, including vital new projects like Crossrail 2.

It will enable the capital to harness extraordinary economic and population growth, and support all who work, live in and visit this great city, ensuring it continues to prosper and power the UK economy of the future.

The future of London series is supported by Transport for London, and commissioned by CityMetric. You can see the other articles at the following links:

"Good transport links will be the foundation of new homes for London": why Crossrail 2 will help solve the housing crisis

"Data helps us provide better transport": an interview with Shashi Verma, TfL's Director of Customer Experience, about big data and new methods of payment


CityMetric is now City Monitor! Come see us at our new home

City Monitor is now live in beta at citymonitor.ai.

CityMetric is now City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications from New Statesman Media Group. Our new site is now live in beta, so please visit us there going forward. Here’s what CityMetric readers should know about this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is now a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission is to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

Please visit citymonitor.ai going forward, where you can also sign up for our free email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our new digs. You can follow City Monitor on LinkedIn and on Twitter. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

To our readers, on behalf of the City Monitor team, thank you from all of us for being such loyal CityMetric fans. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.