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

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.