29 January 2015

Discussing 2050 Infrastructure and Transport Developments at the London Forum

One of the groups that the Kingston upon Thames Society is affiliated to is the London Forum of Amenity and Civic Societies who, amongst other things, hold some interesting events.

The event on 2050 Infrastructure and Transport Developments interested me both as a heavy user of all forms of public transport across London and as somebody interested in the future of London and of Kingston within that. Relatively poor transport is one of Kingston's enduring problems, particularly when compared to neighbouring Richmond and Wimbledon both of which have main-line trains and the tube with Richmond also having London Overground and Wimbledon the Tramlink.

The presentation was given by two officers of TfL, Geoff Hobbs talked about tracks and Helen Cansick about roads. In opening the talk Geoff also talked about how London's growth is anticipated to fuel demand for journeys and the set of plans that respond to this. The key document (for this meeting) was the London 2050 Infrastructure Plan, which was also the furthest looking of the current documents.

I found Geoff's presentation on tracks (tube, railways and trams) very informative and was only saved from the task of taking mountain of notes with the promise of a copy of the presentation afterwards.

It was a story that ranged widely in time (today to 2050) and geography (Zone 1 to Brighton). The overwhelming impression was that an awful lot was being done and more would carry on being done for some years.

The chart below summarises the line modernisation programme.

The main work being done was on signalling to allow more trains to be in service at the same time and so to increase the capacity. This was all very good, and needs to be done, but once it has been done the ability to get more throughput on the existing lines will be severely reduced. And the increased capacity only, at best, matched the anticipated growth and so would do little to ease the severe overcrowding that we already have; it will just stop things from getting worse. At some point we are going to need more tracks somewhere.

Geoff talked about potential new projects, such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo Line extension to the south, which would provide more tracks but only a few.

Helen had less to say on roads but that was understandable. We are more or less stuck with the roads that we have and their is limited scope to remodel them.

I liked the way that she structured a lot of her talk about one particular problem, the morning peak, and the various kinds of measures that could be used to manage this.

The first thing to note is that, as with the tracks, is that this is a stand-still plan, i.e. the aim is to stop the morning congestion from getting any worse despite the growth in journeys, not to reduce the current congestion.

This section of the talk was rich with ideas some of which were no more than that and many of which would have uncertain impact on traffic. The plan was to try lots of things and see which ones worked best. For example, freight traffic in the morning is an issue and things that could be tried to address this are to limit the times that deliveries can be made and to consolidate deliveries to an area being made by multiple suppliers to multiple destinations (i.e. to solve the tricky m:m problem when the 1:m and m:1 problems are easy).

After the talks, and the first long round of applause, Geoff and Helen fielded our questions and they both impressed me with their knowledge (there was none of the usual, "I'll get back to you on that one") and with their enthusiasm for the subject.

The question time ran for quite a while before the curfew fell with many hands still in the air, and then there was another long round of well deserved applause.

The talks were excellent but I was left concerned that the ambition of the plans was to maintain current levels of congestion and that there was little in any of this for the residents of Kingston.

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