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It’s no secret that London’s economic growth is outpacing the rest of the country, but it is difficult to know how the capital will keep up with this level of growth and demand on its services and infrastructure. London’s population growth of over 1.4 million since 1981 is putting stresses and strains on an aging and complex infrastructure system: a system that keeps the city running.
Forecasting demand thirty years into the future is difficult, but nevertheless the numbers set out by the GLA are striking. They estimate that demand for the Underground and rail will rise 60 and 80 per cent, respectively, by 2050. Energy demand is expected to rise 20 per cent over the same period, requiring a major shift toward more electricity and local production. And demand for water in the capital could exceed ‘vital supply’ by as early as 2016. All in all, London will require new infrastructure and new ways of providing it to keep up with demand.
So the GLA today published the consultation on “London Infrastructure Plan 2050” to put forward a plan to help the city’s transport, utilities and other infrastructure keep up with growth.
The key element of the plan, from my point of view, is the establishment of a London Infrastructure Delivery Board. This group of senior representatives from all the main infrastructure providers in London will create links across sectors and promote best practice. It means that all the different actors involved in making the city function will work and strategize together, saving money and time.
Redevelopment of areas of London – like the current Vauxhall/Nine Elms/Battersea area – requires a lot of different players, both public and private, to coordinate. New homes and offices will add demand to public transport routes, require new utility hook ups and affect waste and water runoff. If they are not coordinated in the right times and taking each other into account, there can be big consequences in cost and quality for the provider and customers.
The report sets out how complex that coordination currently is in London:
By bringing these different players together, London will be better able to adapt and change.
The more these players act strategically, the more each infrastructure provider can anticipate its future demand and reduce risk, cost and duplication. If the London Infrastructure Delivery Board comes forward, it is a potential game-changer for opening up new parts of London for much needed homes and offices and for keeping the rest of the network functioning well.
However, this will be a challenge. While the GLA and the Mayor see the big picture, convincing all the different players that it is worth their time to coordinate and negotiate with seemingly unrelated organisations will be no easy task. The GLA will need to develop new networks and present evidence of the benefits of this type of coordinationto reap the full benefits of the Board.
Senior Consultant, City Economics at Arup
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