London promised 400,000 more homes and all-night tube services on 9 out of 11 lines

George Osborne and Boris Johnson at the Tate Modern this morning, basically repeating the words "long-term economic plan" over and over again. Image: Getty.

The news that London's all-night tube services are to be extended to a much wider swathe of the network than previously thought has left Londoners asking themselves one big question:

What does the British government have against the Bakerloo line?

The original plan, you'll recall, was for the (weekend only) 24-hour service to begin running on chunks of the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central, Jubilee and Northern lines by the end of this year.

But today, the authorities announced that night trains would be extended to cover the Metropolitan, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines – the "sub-surface" network – by 2021. Bits of the London Overground (by 2017) and Docklands Light Railway (by 2021) will be getting all night services, too.

This is obviously tremendously exciting. Still, though, the plans exclude two lines entirely.

Leaving out the Waterloo & City makes some kind of sense: it’s a tiny two stop shuttle, which exists almost entirely to give Surrey commuters a quick route to the financial district, so probably isn’t much use at 4am on a Sunday.

The other, though, is the Bakerloo, which links Paddington to Waterloo via the West End. This probably would be of use on all-nighter – and yet it’s conspicuous by its absence.

So, what’s that about, then?

The all-night tube network, as envisioned before today's announcement. Image: TfL.

One possibility is that it's being blocked by bigger and more exciting things. Today's announcement also included news that the government wanted more detailed plans for a long-awaited extension of the line from Elephant & Castle into south east London. But even if that happens – far from guaranteed – there’s no way it’s happening quickly enough to get in the way of all-night trains in 2021.

Another possibility is simply that the line isn't up to it. It uses the oldest trains on the network, dating to 1972, and the intention is to replace these with something newer and shinier. The ageing trains might, for reasons we're not entirely clear on, be a barrier to running all night.

The explanation TfL gives is more prosaic. "The major reason is that we don't think there will be demand for it," says a spokesman. So, there we are. 

The all-night tubes is part of a broader "long term economic plan for London" announced today by mayor Boris Johnson and chancellor George Osborne. As you’d expect, given the timing, much of it is fluff: empty promises to grow faster than New York, £10bn of infrastructure spending that we basically already knew about, promises to make London a centre of something or other.

But it does contain a pledge to build another 400,000 homes over the next 10 years. That'll mean some planning reforms, the establishment of a "London Land Commission", and the creation of nine designated "housing zones". All of which looks like good news, although as Labour's Lord Adonis points out, those nine housing zones are barely scratching the surface of the problem:

There'll be feasibility studies for various big transport projects, too: not just the Bakerloo extension, but Crossrail 2, the Old Oak Common redevelopment, and a series of bridges across the Thames in east London.

Anyone would think there was an election coming up.

Here's the key part of the statement.

The plan aims to:

1)   secure London’s strong economic future by setting the ambition to outpace the growth of New York, adding £6.4bn to the London economy by 2030. This is equivalent to £600 more per person if London’s productivity grows at the same pace projected for New York

2)   create over half a million extra jobs in London by 2020 by backing businesses, attracting world wide investment and continuing to raise standards in schools

3)   solve London’s acute housing problem, the number one challenge facing the city, by building over 400,000 new homes – including through a London Land Commission to identify and support development of brownfield and public sector land

4)   deliver £10 billion of new investment in London’s transport over the next Parliament including new tube improvements, better roads, more buses and cycle lanes and identifying the next big infrastructure investment after Crossrail

5)   make London a centre of the world’s creative and commercial life, with new investment in science, finance, technology and culture. This will include a new feasibility study to develop a world class concert hall for London which will be led by the Barbican Centre

6)   give more power to Londoners to control their city’s future, with new powers for the Mayor of London to support economic growth, boost skills in the capital and have more control over planning powers



The Fire Brigades Union’s statement on Theresa May’s resignation is completely damning

Grenfell Tower. Image: Getty.

Just after 10 this morning, Theresa May announced that she would resign as Britain’s prime minister on 7 June. A mere half an hour later, a statement from Royal Institute of British Architects president Ben Derbyshire arrived in my inbox with a ping:

“The news that Theresa May will step down as Prime Minister leaves the country in limbo while the clock ticks down to the latest deadline of 31 October. While much is uncertain, one thing remains clear – a no deal is no option for architecture or the wider construction sector. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister must focus on taking the country forward with policies beyond Brexit that tackle the major challenges facing the country such as the housing crisis and climate change emergency.”

I was a bit baffled by this – why would the architecture profession try to get its thoughts into a political story? But then Merlin Fulcher of Architects Journal put me right:

Well you know construction is a larger contributor to GDP than financial services, and most of the work UK architects do is for export, and at least half of the largest practice (Foster + Partners) are EU, so there's a lot at stake

— Merlin Fulcher (@merlinfulcher) May 24, 2019

So, the thoughts of the RIBA president are an entirely legitimate thing to send to any construction sector-adjacent journalists who might be writing about today’s big news, and frankly I felt a little silly.

Someone else who should be feeling more than a little silly, though, is Theresa May herself. When listing her government’s achievements, such as they were, she included, setting up “the independent public inquiry into the tragedy at Grenfell Tower” – a fire in a West London public housing block in June 2017 – “to search for the truth, so nothing like it can ever happen again, and so the people who lost their lives that night are never forgotten”.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, is having precisely none of this. Here’s his statement:

“Many of the underlying issues at Grenfell were due to unsafe conditions that had been allowed to fester under Tory governments and a council for which Theresa May bears ultimate responsibility. The inquiry she launched has kicked scrutiny of corporate and government interests into the long-grass, denying families and survivors justice, while allowing business as usual to continue for the wealthy. For the outgoing Prime Minister to suggest that her awful response to Grenfell is a proud part of her legacy is, frankly, disgraceful.”

A total of 72 people died in the Grenfell fire. At time of writing, nobody has been prosecuted.

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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