London infrastructure needs shouldn’t be forgotten

London infrastructure needs shouldn’t be forgotten


Infrastructure plays a vital role in underpinning central London’s economic success. Central London’s infrastructure keeps the city and its people moving, connected and productive.

It is right that TfL and central government have focused on maintaining current levels of service during the recent financial negotiations, and we are hopeful that these discussions can lead to an agreement which works for London and the UK as soon as possible. But in the longer term it is important that we also look ahead to ensure that central London’s infrastructure is both modern and sustainable – vital to ensuring the capital remains a pre-eminent world city, an engine of growth and a great place to live.

Central London Forward’s member authorities have developed Central London’s Infrastructure Priorities. This document makes the case for investing in infrastructure in the capital, setting out the priority projects that could help transform central London and exploring how the infrastructure the capital needs can be delivered.

Building a stronger economy 

Central London’s economic success is vital not just for the capital itself, but for the wider UK economy. The sub-region accounted for 3.5 million jobs prior to the pandemic (GLA, 2019), with the Central Activity Zone alone generating 11% of national output (ARUP, 2020).

London is a global city, acting as the UK’s shop window for the world and attracting millions of international visitors and significant international investment. It is also inextricably linked to regional economies through domestic supply chains. Every £1 of consumption in the capital generates 24p of production elsewhere in the UK (GLA Economics, 2020).

London’s economy generates a large surplus to the Treasury, helping to power investment in infrastructure and public services across the UK. When the capital thrives, so does the rest of the UK.

Central London’s economic success depends on our infrastructure. There is extensive evidence of the economic benefits of investment in infrastructure. CBI research shows that infrastructure investment is a key enabler of economic growth, with every £1 spent on construction activity generating almost £3 in wider economic benefit (CBI, 2020). Investment in infrastructure can generate significant returns both in the short-term and the long-term, meaning that the investment can pay for itself. Analysis by the International Monetary Fund has shown that an increase of 1 percentage point in GDP investment spending raises productivity by 0.4 percent in the same year, and by 1.5 percent after four years (IMF, 2014).

Adapting to a ‘new normal’ 

But London faces ongoing headwinds, and its continued success must not be taken for granted.

The COVID-19 crisis has hit the capital hard. London has seen more job losses and a larger rise in unemployment than any other region or nation across the UK (NOMIS, 2021). While the recovery is underway, it is progressing more slowly than elsewhere in the UK.

It is clear that the post-pandemic city will look very different from London on the eve of the crisis. This will have important implications for our future infrastructure needs. A lasting change to working patterns, with an increase in hybrid working, will change both travel to work patterns and increase the importance of digital connectivity.

Meeting the climate emergency 

Not only this, but as we emerge from the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that we are facing another crisis – the climate emergency. The government and our member boroughs have made welcome commitments to achieving net zero. Investing in infrastructure – whether it be supporting active transport and public transport or supporting the decarbonisation of vehicles and buildings – will be vital to delivering on these commitments.

In addition to mitigating climate change, central London’s infrastructure will also have to adapt to the impact of it – including an increase in extreme weather events and a rise in sea levels.

Priorities for central London 

The 12 London boroughs that make up Central London Forward have come together to identify the following priority infrastructure projects:

  • Digital connectivity
  • Supporting active transport
  • Climate change mitigation and resilience
  • Upgrades to TfL’s bus fleet
  • Upgrades to the London Underground and DLR
  • Mainline station upgrades
  • Bakerloo Line upgrade and extension
  • Crossrail 2

Together, we are calling for an active partnership between central government, the Mayor of London, local authorities and the private sector to deliver the infrastructure that our city needs.

While we might not be able to implement everything right away, it’s important that we keep the torch burning for the projects set out in Central London’s Infrastructure Priorities. These key strategic physical infrastructure projects will help drive growth, unlock homes, and reduce emissions. They would help make London a better place to live and maintain our role as an economic powerhouse and a global city.

Georgina Brightwell is a Policy Officer at Central London Forward – 18.1.2022