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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Segregated playgrounds are just the start: inequality is built into the fabric of our cities

Yet more luxury flats. Image: Getty.

Developers in London have come under scrutiny for segregating people who live in social or affordable housing from residents who pay market rates. Prominent cases have included children from social housing being blocked from using a playground in a new development, and “poor doors” providing separate entrances for social housing residents.

Of course, segregation has long been a reality in cities around the world. For example, gated communities have been documented in the US cities since the 1970s, while racially segregated urban areas existed in South Africa under apartheid. Research by myself and other academics has shown that urban spaces which divide and exclude society’s poorer or more vulnerable citizens are still expanding rapidly, even replacing public provision of facilities and services – such as parks and playgrounds – in cities around the world.

Gated developments in Gurgaon, India, have created a patchwork of privatised services; elite developments in Hanoi, Vietnam, offer rich residents cleaner air; and luxury condos in Toronto, Canada, displace local residents in favour of foreign investors. An extreme example is the Eko Atlantic project in Nigeria – a private city being built in Lagos, where the majority of other residents face extreme levels of deprivation and poverty.

A commodity, or a right?

Although these developments come with their own unique context and characteristics, they all have one thing in common: they effectively segregate city dwellers. By providing the sorts of facilities and services which would normally be run by public authorities, but reserving them exclusively for certain residents, such developments threaten the wider public’s access to green spaces, decent housing, playgrounds and even safe sewage systems.

Access to basic services, which was once considered to be the right of all citizens, is at risk of becoming a commodity. Privatisation may start with minor services such as the landscaping or upkeep of neighbourhoods: for example, the maintenance of some new-build estates in the UK are being left to developers in return for a service charge. This might seem insignificant, but it introduces an unregulated cost for the residents.

Privatising the provision of municipal services may be seen by some as a way for wealthier residents to enjoy a better standard of living – as in Hanoi. But in the worst cases, it puts in a paywall in front of fundamental services such as sewage disposal – as happened in Gurgaon. In other words, privatisation may start with insignificant services and expand to more fundamental ones, creating greater segregation and inequality in cities.


A divided city

My own research on branded housing projects in Turkey has highlighted the drastic consequences of the gradual expansion of exclusive services and facilities through segregated developments. These private housing developments – known for their extensive use of branding – have sprung up in Istanbul and other Turkish cities over the past two decades, since the government began to favour a more neoliberal approach.

By 2014, there were more than 800 branded housing projects in Istanbul alone. They vary in scale from a single high-rise building to developments aiming to accommodate more than 20,000 residents. Today, this development type can be seen in every city in Turkey, from small towns to the largest metropolitan areas.

The branded housing projects are segregated by design, often featuring a single tower or an enclosing cluster of buildings, as well as walls and fences. They provide an extensive array of services and facilities exclusively for their residents, including parks, playgrounds, sports pitches, health clinics and landscaping.

Making the same services and facilities available within each project effectively prevents interaction between residents and people living outside of their development. What’s more, these projects often exist in neighbourhoods which lack publicly accessible open spaces such as parks and playgrounds.

This is a city-wide problem in Istanbul since the amount of publicly accessible green spaces in Istanbul is as low as 2.2 per cent of the total urban area. In London, 33 per cent of the city’s area is made up of parks and gardens open to the public – which shows the severity of the problem in Istanbul.

These branded housing projects do not feature any affordable units or social housing, so there are no opportunities for less privileged city-dwellers to enjoy vital facilities such as green spaces. This has knock-on effects on excluded residents’ mental and physical health, contributing to greater inequality in these respects, too.

Emerging alternatives

To prevent increasing inequality, exclusion and segregation in cities, fundamental urban services must be maintained or improved and kept in public ownership and made accessible for every city-dweller. There are emerging alternatives that show ways to do this and challenge privatisation policies.

For example, in some cities, local governments have “remunicipalised” key services, bringing them back into public ownership. A report by Dutch think-tank the Transnational Institute identified 235 cases where water supplies were remunicipalised across 37 countries between 2000 and 2015. The water remunicipalisation tracker keeps track of successful examples of remunicipalisation cases around the world, as well as ongoing campaigns.

It is vitally important to keep urban services public and reverse subtle forms or privatisation by focusing on delivering a decent standard of living for all residents. Local authorities need to be committed to this goal – but they must also receive adequate funds from local taxes and central governments. Only then, will quality services be available to all people living in cities.

The Conversation

Bilge Serin, Research Associate, University of Glasgow.

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