Pretty much everyone still calls the Elizabeth line Crossrail

And she looks so happy, too. Image: Getty.

For decades now, the authorities have been planning a new east-west tunnel under London, linking the main line from the west of the capital into Paddington with the main line from the east into Liverpool Street.

And for decades now, this plan has been referred to as Crossrail. The name seems first to have appeared in the 1974 London Rail Study. It was attached to more proposals in the early 1990s.

When construction of the new line was finally approved, it was in the Crossrail Act 2008. The company tasked with building the new line was a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, trading under the name Crossrail Ltd. Another proposed line, which will carry trains on a south-west/north-east axis, from Surrey to Hertfordshire, is currently known by the name Crossrail 2.

So anyway: the new line is called Crossrail. Everybody knows it’s called Crossrail. What else could we possibly call it?

Image: TFL.

Oh.

It’s more than two years ago now that we learned that London’s new railway line would be named the Elizabeth Line, as if naming things after someone who wasn’t dead was in any way a not creepy thing to do in a democracy. The new name will be on tube maps and wayfinding signs. The new line will be the Elizabeth Line, and not Crossrail.

Yet there are signs that this information has yet to filter through to the public at large. Check out this graph showing the popularity search terms since 2004, courtesy of Google Trends. The blue line is searches for “Crossrail”; the red is searches for “Elizabeth line”.  See if you can spot the point at the TfL announced the latter of those names.

Click to expand. Image: Google Trends.

That happened in February 2016, so comparing the two names before then is a point pointless. Zoom in on those last two and a bit years, though, and you can see that much the same pattern holds: people are much more likely to search Crossrail than the Elizabeth Line.

Click to expand. Image: Google Trends.

There are two big peaks in searches for “the Elizabeth line”. The first, in February 2016, was when the name was first announced. The second is last December, when TfL first released a tube map showing how the Elizabeth Line would look on the map when it officially comes into being next December. The bump in both search terms, in late May and early June of 2017, coincides with the broadcast of a documentary about the new line, The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway: The Final Countdown.

To be fair, these graph is worldwide. There are other proposals known as Crossrail elsewhere in the world: in Glasgow, Edinburgh and New York, to name but three.  So what happens if we just look at the English data?

Click to expand. Image: Google Trends.

Riiiight.

Things will no doubt change once the thing opens, and people encounter the maps and the signage and so on. But as things stand, whatever TfL might think, the new line is still known as Crossrail, as it has been for 44 years.

Incidentally:

Click to expand. Image: Google Trends.

Not everyone lives in London, you know. But everyone Googling about Crossrail/the Elizabeth Line? Well, they pretty much do.

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

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High streets and shopping malls face a ‘domino effect’ from major store closures

Another one bites the dust: House of Fraser plans to close the majority of its stores. Image: Getty.

Traditional retail is in the centre of a storm – and British department store chain House of Fraser is the latest to succumb to the tempest. The company plans to close 31 of its 59 shops – including its flagship store in Oxford Street, London – by the beginning of 2019. The closures come as part of a company voluntary arrangement, which is an insolvency deal designed to keep the chain running while it renegotiates terms with landlords. The deal will be voted on by creditors within the month.

Meanwhile in the US, the world’s largest retail market, Sears has just announced that it will be closing more than 70 of its stores in the near future.

This trend of major retailers closing multiple outlets exists in several Western countries – and its magnitude seems to be unrelated to the fundamentals of the economy. The US, for example, has recently experienced a clear decoupling of store closures from overall economic growth. While the US economy grew a healthy 2.3 per cent in 2017, the year ended with a record number of store closings, nearly 9,000 while 50 major chains filed for bankruptcy.

Most analysts and industry experts agree that this is largely due to the growth of e-commerce – and this is not expected to diminish anytime soon. A further 12,000 stores are expected to close in the US before the end of 2018. Similar trends are being seen in markets such as the UK and Canada.

Pushing down profits

Perhaps the most obvious impact of store closures is on the revenues and profitability of established brick-and-mortar retailers, with bankruptcies in the US up by nearly a third in 2017. The cost to investors in the retail sector has been severe – stocks of firms such as Sears have lost upwards of 90 per cent of their market value in the last ten years. By contrast, Amazon’s stock price is up over 2,000 per cent in the same period – more than 49,000 per cent when considering the last 20 years. This is a trend that the market does not expect to change, as the ratio of price to earnings for Amazon stands at ten times that of the best brick-and-mortar retailers.

Although unemployment levels reached a 17-year low in 2017, the retail sector in the US shed a net 66,500 jobs. Landlords are losing longstanding tenants. The expectation is that roughly 25 per cent of shopping malls in the US are at high risk of closing one of their anchor tenants such as a Macy’s, which could set off a series of store closures and challenge the very viability of the mall. One out of every five malls is expected to close by 2022 – a prospect which has put downward pressure on retail real estate prices and on the finances of the firms that own and manage these venues.

In the UK, high streets are struggling through similar issues. And given that high streets have historically been the heart of any UK town or city, there appears to be a fundamental need for businesses and local councils to adapt to the radical changes affecting the retail sector to preserve their high streets’ vitality and financial viability.


The costs to society

While attention is focused on the direct impacts on company finances, employment and landlord rents, store closures can set off a “domino effect” on local governments and businesses, which come at a significant cost to society. For instance, closures can have a knock-on effect for nearby businesses – when large stores close, the foot traffic to neighbouring establishments is also reduced, which endangers the viability of other local businesses. For instance, Starbucks has recently announced plans to close all its 379 Teavana stores. Primarily located inside shopping malls, they have harshly suffered from declining mall traffic in recent years.

Store closures can also spell trouble for local authorities. When retailers and neighbouring businesses close, they reduce the taxable revenue base that many municipalities depend on in order to fund local services. Add to this the reduction in property taxes stemming from bankrupt landlords and the effect on municipal funding can be substantial. Unfortunately, until e-commerce tax laws are adapted, municipalities will continue to face financial challenges as more and more stores close.

It’s not just local councils, but local development which suffers when stores close. For decades, many cities in the US and the UK, for exmaple Detroit and Liverpool, have heavily invested in efforts to rejuvenate their urban cores after years of decay in the 1970s and 1980s. Bringing shops, bars and other businesses back to once derelict areas has been key to this redevelopment. But today, with businesses closing, cities could once again face the prospect of seeing their efforts unravel as their key urban areas become less attractive and populations move elsewhere.

Commercial ecosystems featuring everything from large chain stores to small independent businesses are fragile and sensitive to change. When a store closes it doesn’t just affect employees or shareholders – it can have widespread and lasting impacts on the local community, and beyond. Controlling this “domino effect” is going to be a major challenge for local governments and businesses for years to come.

Omar Toulan, Professor in Strategy and International Management, IMD Business School and Niccolò Pisani, Assistant Professor of International Management, University of Amsterdam.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.