Where will all those extra Londoners live?

In the London of the future, this will count as "quiet". Image: Getty.

We hate to say we told you so (actually, that's a lie, it's basically what we live for), but we did, in fact, tell you so. So: we told you so.

There, we've said it.

Here's what we told you. According to figures published this morning by London's City Hall, there are now more than 8.6m Londoners, meaning the city has finally overtaken the previous population record it set in 1939. By 2050, City Hall thinks, that number will have risen to 11m. None of this is news, of course (did we mention that we'd told you so?) but it's now officially official.

The city authorities are using all this to remind the national government of the importance of giving London lots more money for infrastructure, and to demand more powers over things like property taxes. This is a debate that's going to run for some time, though, so let's think about something else. Let's ask: where are all those extra Londoners going to go?

Working this out will be no easy matter: even the figures covering London’s current population are actually just projections, based on 2011 census figures and the trends observed since. (No one has actually counted those 8.6m Londoners.) Nonetheless, City Hall has published figures showing which bits of London it expects to grow the most.

First, though, let's look at which bits of London it thinks are growing now. Here's a bar chart showing the speed at which different boroughs have grown since the 2011 census. We've included the same figures for inner London, outer London and the whole shebang.

A bar chart with 36 different bars can be hard to make sense of, though, so let's project the same data onto a map.

Here we've colour-coded the boroughs by the rate of their recent expansion, relative to their existing population. We've also included numbers, representing the extra population in thousands.

Two trends leap out at you. One is that inner London is growing faster than outer London: the depopulation of the city which characterised the decades after World War Two is going into reverse. The other is that much of the growth is crowded into the boroughs bordering the Thames in East London, where there’s a lot of ex-industrial land. It’s a sort of “Greater Docklands” phenomenon.

One slight oddity, though, is Barnet, the large borough that lies way up in the north west. It’s grown so fast recently that officials think it’s now snatched Croydon's crown to become London's most popular borough.

So much for the present. Here's the future:

All the trends we’ve already highlighted are expected to  continue. East London is going to get much more populated; inner London will grow faster than outer London; Barnet continues to boom. But the boroughs of west London are set to get more crowded too, as are the relatively slow-growing parts of East London: one suspects this to be an overspill from the completion of Crossrail.

To give you some more detail, here’s a bar chart. The main takeaway is that inner London is expected to grow quite a lot faster than outer London.

Here's one last chart. On this one the blue bars represent the boroughs' populations in the 2011 census. The red section is the additional residents they're thought to have gained since; the green is those they're expected to pick up by 2039.

We've ordered them by the absolute size of the population increase. The boroughs on the left are getting a lot more populated; those on the right aren’t.

We noted the other day that Bromley, right down in the city’s south eastern corner, could accommodate an enormous number of extra people: at the moment, it’s more than 50 per cent green space. And yet, in the decades to come, it's hardly expected to expand at all.

So, thanks, Bromley. Thanks for everything.


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.