LA and London both prove the solution is good infrastructure, leadership—and getting a grip on trafficby Andrew Adonis / July 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
New York’s transport system is falling to bits. JFK airport is regularly described as third world, and the subway system has seen no major upgrades for decades. London, by contrast, is about to open the new east-west Crossrail line connecting Heathrow, the West End, the City and Canary Wharf. And a consensus is forming for further bold investments which—Brexit permitting—will make London the world’s infrastructure capital.
The high-speed HS2 line from London to Birmingham begins construction next year and will be completed by 2027. It will then be extended to Manchester and Leeds. Plans for a north-south London Crossrail 2 line are well advanced. Heathrow’s new Terminal Two, and nearly-new Terminal Five, are world class; and after years of agonising, a decision on a third runway and another new terminal is imminent. Together with tube upgrades enabling 36 trains an hour on the Victoria line, and an integrated contactless ticketing system for London’s public transport system, it is a remarkable turnaround for the failing city of the 1970s and 80s.
London’s renaissance can be explained simply: leadership. It started with Michael Heseltine’s inspired decision in the 80s to reinvent the Docklands as a new business district, with Canary Wharf at its heart, and to extend the Jubilee Line to serve it. In 2000, Tony Blair’s government established a new mayoralty for London, responsible for public transport. The first Mayor, Ken Livingstone, took a series of bold initiatives—including Crossrail and a congestion charging zone in the centre—and secured the Blair/Brown government’s backing. The 2012 Olympics were another powerful catalyst.