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Orbital rail link 'essential' for London

rail track 2by3

London needs orbital rail and cycle links as part of a range of measures to avoid problems such as social unrest and poor health, a report has warned.

The study, led by engineering consultancy Atkins, said a major upgrade of transport links in outer London was needed to ensure the city maintained its global competitiveness.

Published in conjunction with forecasting business Oxford Economics and think tank Centre for London, Future Proofing London said a lack of quality jobs outside the heart of the capital – and a scarcity of affordable housing in the centre – meant a growing number of commuters.

“New orbital rail links are essential if outer London’s potential is to be unlocked because traveling between places in outer London is currently very difficult,” said the report.

It said this could be achieved by upgrades to existing lines as well as new, dedicated links, and also called for better cycle lanes.

“There needs to be new cycle infrastructure that can help to interconnect outer London,” said the report. “At present all the existing and planned cycle super highways are radial – investment in orbital cycle super highways is also required.”

Cycle hubs should be built near busy rail stations, and the central London bike hire scheme extended to the edges of the capital, said the study.

Future Proofing London predicted that London’s population would reach 12M by 2050. It said the South East could be left with a shortfall of 1.5M homes by that date.

Atkins director Mike McNicholas said: “London’s position as one of the world’s leading cities is in real danger of slipping.

“It’s vital that we keep on top of evolving trends and update our plans to deal with them, otherwise the infrastructure will not be developed at the right rate, or crucially in the right way, over the next few decades and [will] leave London residents, workers and visitors facing avoidable issues.

“The housing supply and the projected population growth are a long way apart and this will only get worse if we carry on down the same path. There will be serious knock on effects as the pressure of the growing population pushes onto under prepared infrastructure.”

The report in a nutshell

Future Proofing London warned London was growing faster than its infrastructure. It said problems the capital could face included growing inequality and divisions; overcrowding; commuter congestion; and degradation of the environment.

It called for four actions to prevent this happening:

  • Greater consideration of the environmental and social benefits of infrastructure investment
  • Revitalisation of outer London with better transport links and more housing
  • Selection of urban places of distinctive character to be hubs for residential, commercial and industrial developments
  • Reassessment of the green belt to allow affordable and sustainable housing in previously protected areas


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