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Analysis | What's the next London mayor’s plan for transport?

London skyline

Transport announcements weird and wonderful have been a central feature of Boris Johnson’s eight years in charge of London. But, with the mayoral election less than 24 hours away, what would the candidates to replace him do for the capital’s transport infrastructure?

The good news for engineers is that – despite two of them prompting a heated response from the chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering when they snubbed a debate on the issue – the main candidates have a keen interest in infrastructure.

Labour’s Sadiq Khan was transport minister under Gordon Brown, backing projects including Crossrail, the Nottingham tram extensions and M25 widening.

He plans to follow Johnson in chairing Transport for London if elected as mayor, and to transform the body to generate savings that would allow him to spend on projects as well as to freeze fares.

Khan has described TfL as “inefficient and flabby”. His manifesto pledged to merge engineering functions at the body and to reduce consultancy and agency spending by almost £200M per year.

Boris’ bid to get Londoners on their bikes would continue under Khan, with an increase in the proportion of TfL’s budget spent on cycling, and more investment in cycle lanes. There would also be safe walking routes and 20mph roads.

The Labour candidate pledged to support Crossrail 2 and plan for further projects, including orbital links for outer London, an extension of the Docklands Light Railway, and an extension of the Bakerloo Line.

Although he has stood up against the Heathrow expansion recommended by the Airports Commission, he has called for a second runway at Gatwick instead, saying it was the “cheapest, greenest and most viable option”.

Here Khan has an unlikely ally in Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith – currently Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston.

Goldsmith’s mayoral manifesto pledged to continue his fight against Heathrow, and to invest in links from central London to other airports.

Elsewhere, he pledged to increase the combined capacity of the District, Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines.

The Conservative candidate’s manifesto also set out plans to bring suburban rail franchises under mayoral control, creating a ‘Southern Overground’ that could eventually have a train every 10 minutes at peak times.

Goldsmith also promised to back a privately-financed river crossing at Silvertown to relieve congestion at the Blackwall tunnel.

He mooted a point-to-point electric car sharing scheme for London, and making the so-called Boris Bikes available via Oyster card and contactless payment.

Goldsmith pledged to secure the “funds and powers needed” for Crossrail 2; the Sutton Tramlink; and extensions of the Northern Line to Battersea, the Bakerloo Line to Lewisham and London Overground to Barking Riverside.

There were some more radical ideas as well.

“I will evaluate whether Soho could be turned into a walkers’ zone,” said the manifesto, adding: “I will seek where possible to take London’s road space underground.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pidgeon is deputy chair of mayoral watchdog the London Assembly’s transport committee. She promised to ban lorries during rush hour as well as to review all major junctions in the capital with cycle safety in mind.

Her mayoral manifesto also backed Crossrail 2 and Overground, tram and Bakerloo line extensions.

In many ways then engineers need not mourn the passing of Boris, who will of course continue to exercise his influence in the Houses of Parliament. Whoever succeeds him at City Hall looks set to take up the transport baton in London with gusto.

Of course, we now live in a world where Leicester City can win the Premier League as 5,000-1 outsiders. Candidates competing tomorrow with far shorter odds than those include the Green Party’s Sian Berry, who would introduce car-free Sundays to the West End, and Respect Party’s George Galloway, who would ban heavy vehicles from central London throughout daytime hours.

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