Ten reasons PLP's CarTube is the silliest London transport plan you'll see this week

Oh, wow, this is really something. Image: PLP.

So here's fun thing bouncing round the nerdier corners of the internet in a “LOL, what” kind of a way:

Architecture practice PLP is soon to reveal their concept design for CarTube, a revolutionary solution for transportation in cities such as London.

“CarTube”? A car, and yet also, a tube? Whatever could it mean?

The concept combines two existing modes of transport – automated electric cars and mass public transit – into a single, seamless underground road system.

Users will be able to book a CarTube trip in their own cars or shared public cars through a smartphone app.

There will be an underground transport network that moves cars in a continuous flow at a steady speed, increasing transport capacity, relieving congestion and freeing up public realm above ground.

Lars Hesselgren, Director of Research at PLP will officially unveil CarTube at a conference on the 2nd December at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) HQ in London.

I would say that I have some questions for Lars.

In some ways it's a bit cruel to do a sanity check something like this, because it's so obviously incapable of withstanding it. Indeed, it was probably never intended to: my suspicion with these things is always that the real point of the exercise was to mock up a pretty picture in the hope of free publicity. (Possibly not the kind of free publicity I am offering right now.)


But what the hell, let's do it anyway:

1) It's quite difficult digging tunnels in London because there's so much stuff already under the ground (electrics, gas, sewers, the actually existing Tube). At Tottenham Court Road, the Crossrail tunnels run between two existing bits of tube architecture, with under a metre of clearance.

So I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that there probably isn't enough space under London's streets to create significant network of TubeCar tunnels, thus rendering the whole thing a bit silly.

2) That specific point on the Victoria Embankment, courtesy of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, contains one of central London's most important sewers. So it’s probably not the best place to start.

3) While we're at it, it also contains the District and Circle lines. You almost certainly couldn't put the CarTube there, is my point here.

4) Why are the cars underground so tiny? Do they get miniaturised as they go through the portal? Is that it? Is this the bit of the plan they're going to reveal at their press conference this week?

5) While we're talking about portals, I'm guessing there probably isn't enough space on the surface in London to create them either.

I mean, on this mock up, they've put the entrance to the tunnel on the site of an existing road, thus implying that we wouldn't be losing any more space to car traffic. Except that, in this parallel universe, roads clearly still exist to do the first and last leg or your journey, or you wouldn't need a portal in the first place. Soooo... where are the portals going to go? Which roads will stay and which will go? Will there be an enquiry?

6) Come to that, where are all the vehicles that aren't part of the CarTube system meant to go? Are they just banned from Westminster now? Parliament is still going to need goods deliveries. Are they all meant to take the CarTube? Is the Prime Minister's car?

7) To be fair, maybe I'm being unfair with all these questions, and this is actually just a nice plan to make the Victoria Embankment into a park. By ripping up the Circle line.

8) In the real world, this is where the east-west cycle superhighway runs. They've ripped that up, too. Great work, guys. Fantastic work.

9) Bit worried about those people cycling on that narrow path, shared with pedestrians, without any barriers stopping them from falling in the Thames, too.

10) That said, in this fantasy world, every bridge can be a garden bridge. Look how garden-y Westminster Bridge is! If we did this at least we wouldn't have to build the actual Garden Bridge, I guess. So that's something.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.


In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.