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

 

 
 
 
 

These maps of petition signatories show which bits of the country are most enthusiastic about scrapping Brexit

The Scottish bit. Image: UK Parliament.

As anyone in the UK who has been near an internet connection today will no doubt know, there’s a petition on Parliament’s website doing the rounds. It rejects Theresa May’s claim – inevitably, and tediously, repeated again last night – that Brexit is the will of the people, and calls on the government to end the current crisis by revoking Article 50. At time of writing it’s had 1,068,554 signatures, but by the time you read this it will definitely have had quite a lot more.

It is depressingly unlikely to do what it sets out to do, of course: the Prime Minister is not in listening mode, and Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom has already been seen snarking that as soon as it gets 17.4m votes, the same number that voted Leave in 2016, the government will be sure to give it due care and attention.

So let’s not worry about whether or not the petition will be successful and instead look at some maps.

This one shows the proportion of voters in each constituency who have so far signed the petition: darker colours means higher percentages. The darkest constituencies tend to be smaller, because they’re urban areas with a higher population density.

And it’s clear the petition is most popular in, well, exactly the sort of constituencies that voted for Remain three years ago: Cambridge (5.1 per cent), Bristol West (5.6 per cent), Brighton Pavilion (5.7 per cent) and so on. Hilariously, Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North is also at 5.1 per cent, the highest in London, despite its MP clearly having remarkably little interest in revoking article 50.

By the same token, the sort of constituencies that aren’t signing this thing are – sit down, this may come as a shock – the sort of places that tended to vote Leave in 2016. Staying with the London area, the constituencies of the Essex fringe (Ilford South, Hornchurch & Upminster, Romford) are struggling to break 1 per cent, and some (Dagenham & Rainham) have yet to manage half that. You can see similar figures out west by Heathrow.

And you can see the same pattern in the rest of the country too: urban and university constituencies signing in droves, suburban and town ones not bothering. The only surprise here is that rural ones generally seem to be somewhere in between.

The blue bit means my mouse was hovering over that constituency when I did the screenshot, but I can’t be arsed to redo.

One odd exception to this pattern is the West Midlands, where even in the urban core nobody seems that bothered. No idea, frankly, but interesting, in its way:

Late last year another Brexit-based petition took off, this one in favour of No Deal. It’s still going, at time of writing, albeit only a third the size of the Revoke Article 50 one and growing much more slowly.

So how does that look on the map? Like this:

Unsurprisingly, it’s a bit of an inversion of the new one: No Deal is most popular in suburban and rural constituencies, while urban and university seats don’t much fancy it. You can see that most clearly by zooming in on London again:

Those outer east London constituencies in which people don’t want to revoke Article 50? They are, comparatively speaking, mad for No Deal Brexit.

The word “comparatively” is important here: far fewer people have signed the No Deal one, so even in those Brexit-y Essex fringe constituencies, the actual number of people signing it is pretty similar the number saying Revoke. But nonetheless, what these two maps suggest to me is that the new political geography revealed by the referendum is still largely with us.


In the 20 minutes it’s taken me to write this, the number of signatures on the Revoke Article 50 has risen to 1,088,822, by the way. Will of the people my arse.

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

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