Could London get a new tube line from Canary Wharf to Euston?

Canary Wharf, 2011. Image: Getty.

Well, here’s a faintly crazy story I managed to miss. From New Civil Engineer:

A new underground rail line connecting High Speed 2 services at Euston Station in north London to Canary Wharf in east London is being considered by the government, New Civil Engineer understands.

The proposal to build the line was submitted by developer Canary Wharf Group as part of the government’s call for ideas for market led proposals (MLPs) – a mechanism to invite more private sector funding of rail projects in the UK.

In all, there are 10 projects being considered, whittled down from 30 submissions to the government.

The idea of a better link between Euston and Canary Wharf makes a certain amount of sense. Despite the fact the latter is now the capital’s second business district it’s surprisingly awkward to get there from the mainline stations of the Euston Road that are the gateway to London for a lot of the country. Obviously the city can live without it – but if you were planning on building a whole new tube route, this is one you might think about.


The idea of letting property developers decide where new tube lines should go sounds crazy at first. Major infrastructure schemes of this sort cost a fortune and create major disruption, including to people who won’t benefit directly. Why on earth would we allow already massively rich people any more influence on such decisions than they already have on the world by virtue of being, as I may have mentioned, massively rich?

Except, two things. Firstly: whisper it soft, but most of the tube network was privately built. The network was only taken into public ownership in the early 1930s, and the first entirely new line to be built by the state was the Victoria line, which opened in 1968. What’s more, many of those private companies which built the early tube were really property businesses, which saw new tube lines as a way of getting people to those lovely new homes they were developing.

Secondly, the private sector is already playing a role in determining which expensive new tunnels London builds. Crossrail has been partly funded by private money. So is the Northern line extension to Battersea. Crossrail 2 is extremely unlikely to happen without it.

So there is a precedent. But never mind that now, let’s get the crayons out and ask where would the new line go?

On Twitter, Canary Wharf councillor Andrew Wood said that documents he’s seen show the new route would have one intermediate station. The New Civil Engineer story suggests that the London Borough of Southwark is affected in some way. That to me points to a southern route. Perhaps the intermediate station would be at Blackfriars, providing an easy change from Thameslink services:

Image: Google.

That said, were it up to me, and bearing in mind I’ve thought about this for all of three minutes, I’d take a more direct route via Shoreditch High Street, to improve access to both the City and the tech industry based by Old Street roundabout. You can even throw in an extra stop on the Central line if you’re feeling flush.

Image: Google.

Drawing lines on maps is fun, is what I’m saying here.

Jonn Elledge is editor of CityMetric and the assistant editor of the New Statesman. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.

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Here’s how we plant 2 billion more trees in the UK

A tree in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Image: Getty.

The UK’s official climate advisor, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), recently published a report outlining how to reduce the 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions that come from land use by two thirds by 2050. Alongside recommending cutting meat and dairy consumption by 20 per cent, the report calls for the annual creation of up to 50,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland for the next three decades. This would increase forest cover from 13 per cent to at least 17 per cent – a level not seen in Britain since before the Norman invasion.

Reforestation at that rate would mean creating roughly the area of the city of Leeds every year for the next three decades. At typical stocking densities of 1,500 stems per hectare, the ambition is to establish some 2.25 billion additional trees. Given that the UK, as with most of Europe, is in the grip of ash dieback, a disease likely to prove fatal for many millions of native ash trees, the scale of the challenge is massive.

On a crowded and intensively farmed island like Britain, unlocking a million and a half hectares of land will be no mean feat. But it’s not impossible – and is an unprecedented opportunity not only to tackle the climate crisis but also the biodiversity crisis that is every bit as detrimental to our wellbeing.

Trees and farms

One million and a half hectares is just 6 per cent of the mainland UK’s land area. To give some sense of perspective on this, 696,000 hectares of “temporary grassland” were registered in 2019. So if land supply is not the problem, what is? Often it’s cultural inertia. Farmers are firmly rooted to the land and perhaps understandably reluctant to stop producing food and instead become foresters. But the choice need not be so binary.

The intensification of agriculture has caused catastrophic declines in many species throughout the UK by reducing vast wooded areas and thousands of miles of hedgerows to small pockets of vegetation, isolating populations and making them more vulnerable to extinction.

Integrating trees with the farmed landscape delivers multiple benefits for farms and the environment. Reforestation doesn’t have to mean a return to the ecologically and culturally inappropriate single-species blocks of non-native conifers, which were planted en masse in the 1970s and 1980s. Incentivised under tax breaks to secure a domestic timber supply, many of the resulting plantations were located in places difficult or in some cases impossible to actually harvest.

Productive farmland needn’t be converted to woodland. Instead, that 4 per cent of land could be found by scattering trees more widely. After all, more trees on farmland is good for business. They prevent soil erosion and the run-off of pollutants, provide shade and shelter for livestock, a useful source of renewable fuel and year-round forage for pollinating insects.

The first tranche of tree planting could involve new hedgerows full of large trees, preferably with wide headlands of permanently untilled soils, providing further wildlife refuge.


Natural regeneration

Where appropriate, new woody habitats can be created simply by stopping how the land is currently used, such as by removing livestock. This process can be helped by scattering seeds in areas where seed sources are low. But patience is a virtue. If people can learn to tolerate less clipped and manicured landscapes, nature can run its own course.

A focus on deliberate tree planting also raises uncomfortable truths. Most trees are planted with an accompanying stake to keep them upright and a plastic shelter that protects the sapling from grazing damage. All too often, these shelters aren’t retrieved. Left to the elements, they break down into ever smaller pieces, and can be swept into rivers and eventually the ocean, where they threaten marine wildlife. Two billion tree shelters is a lot of plastic.

The main reason for using tree shelters at all is because the deer population in the UK is so high that in many places, it is all but impossible to establish new trees. This also has serious implications for existing woodland, which is prevented from naturally regenerating. In time, these trees will age and die, threatening the loss of the woodland itself. Climate change, pests and pathogens and the lack of a coordinated, centrally supported approach to deer management means the outlook for the UK’s existing treescape is uncertain at best.

An ecologically joined-up solution would be to reintroduce the natural predators of deer, such as lynx, wolves, and bears. Whether rewilding should get that far in the UK is still the subject of debate. Before that, perhaps the focus should be on providing the necessary habitat, rich in native trees.

A positive response would be to implement the balanced recommendations, made almost a decade ago in a government review, of creating more new habitat, improving what’s already there, and finding ways to link it together. Bigger, better, and more connected habitats.

But the UK is losing trees at increasing rates and not just through diseases. The recent removal of Victorian-era street trees in Sheffield and many other towns and cities is another issue to contend with. As the climate warms, increasing urban temperatures will mean cities need shade from street trees more than ever.

Trees aren’t the environmental panacea that the politicians might have people believe – even if they do make for great photo opportunities – but we do need more of them. Efforts to expand tree cover are underway across the world and the UK will benefit from contributing its share. Hitting the right balance – some commercial forestry, lots of new native woodland and millions of scattered trees – will be key to maximising the benefits they bring.

Nick Atkinson, Senior Lecturer in Ecology & Conservation, Nottingham Trent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.