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.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

“Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis”

You BET! Oh GOD. Image: Getty.

Today, the mayor of London called for new powers to introduce rent controls in London. With ever increasing rents swallowing more of people’s income and driving poverty, the free market has clearly failed to provide affordable homes for Londoners. 

Created in 1988, the modern private rented sector was designed primarily to attract investment, with the balance of power weighted almost entirely in landlords’ favour. As social housing stock has been eroded, with more than 1 million fewer social rented homes today compared to 1980, and as the financialisation of homes has driven up house prices, more and more people are getting trapped private renting. In 1990 just 11 per cent of households in London rented privately, but by 2017 this figure had grown to 27 per cent; it is also home to an increasing number of families and older people. 

When I first moved to London, I spent years spending well over 50 per cent of my income on rent. Even without any dependent to support, after essentials my disposable income was vanishingly small. London has the highest rent to income ratio of any region, and the highest proportion of households spending over a third of their income on rent. High rents limit people’s lives, and in London this has become a major driver of poverty and inequality. In the three years leading up to 2015-16, 960,000 private renters were living in poverty, and over half of children growing up in private rented housing are living in poverty.

So carefully designed rent controls therefore have the potential to reduce poverty and may also contribute over time to the reduction of the housing benefit bill (although any housing bill reductions have to come after an expansion of the system, which has been subject to brutal cuts over the last decade). Rent controls may also support London’s employers, two-thirds of whom are struggling to recruit entry-level staff because of the shortage of affordable homes. 

It’s obvious that London rents are far too high, and now an increasing number of voices are calling for rent controls as part of the solution: 68 per cent of Londoners are in favour, and a growing renters’ movement has emerged. Groups like the London Renters Union have already secured a massive victory in the outlawing of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions. But without rent control, landlords can still unfairly get rid of tenants by jacking up rents.


At the New Economics Foundation we’ve been working with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to research what kind of rent control would work in London. Rent controls are often polarising in the UK but are commonplace elsewhere. New York controls rents on many properties, and Berlin has just introduced a five year “rental lid”, with the mayor citing a desire to not become “like London” as a motivation for the policy. 

A rent control that helps to solve London’s housing crisis would need to meet several criteria. Since rents have risen three times faster than average wages since 2010, rent control should initially brings rents down. Our research found that a 1 per cent reduction in rents for four years could lead to 20 per cent cheaper rents compared to where they would be otherwise. London also needs a rent control both within and between tenancies because otherwise landlords can just reset rents when tenancies end.

Without rent control we can’t hope to solve London’s housing crisis – but it’s not without risk. Decreases in landlord profits could encourage current landlords to exit the sector and discourage new ones from entering it. And a sharp reduction in the supply of privately rented homes would severely reduce housing options for Londoners, whilst reducing incentives for landlords to maintain and improve their properties.

Rent controls should be introduced in a stepped way to minimise risks for tenants. And we need more information on landlords, rents, and their business models in order to design a rent control which avoids unintended consequences.

Rent controls are also not a silver bullet. They need to be part of a package of solutions to London’s housing affordability crisis, including a large scale increase in social housebuilding and an improvement in housing benefit. However, private renting will be part of London’s housing system for some time to come, and the scale of the affordability crisis in London means that the question of rent controls is no longer “if”, but increasingly “how”. 

Joe Beswick is head of housing & land at the New Economics Foundation.