Capital West London and WSP brought together experts and key stakeholders to discuss where West London stands in infrastructure, what opportunities for improvement there are, how much funding would be required and where that might come from, and to
get an idea of the effect of the current pandemic on future infrastructure needs.
There follows a report, or you can see the report as a pdf file.
Opening the discussion Ian Liddell of WSP highlighted that, in line with London as a whole, West London is aiming for a sustainable modal shift, enabling improved air quality, and a shift to a low carbon economy. Further, there is a need for infrastructure improvement and investment to facilitate land use change, regeneration and development, particularly to take advantage of generational opportunities presented to the area by the arrival of the Elizabeth Line and High Speed Two.
Heathrow Airport remains a key strength for West London infrastructure. Its connections provide better global links than for any other UK region. True, it may be subdued at present, but it will continue to be a driver for investment.
Heathrow is incredibly important to West London for the economy, employment and helping people live their lives. Improving access to Heathrow remains important.
The strong industrial base in Park Royal has good access in to and out of London on arterial routes, and around on the orbital
ones, although these could do with being improved. The park services a large proportion of London’s, and indeed the country’s needs.
On the sub-region’s trains, in normal times network capacity remains stretched but being on the doorstep of Heathrow and Crossrail/HS2 puts West London head and shoulders above other sub-regions for connectivity.
Pre-COVID West London had a £74m economy (4% of national GVA), bigger than Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow combined. Now it needs to get growing back.
The Elizabeth Line is almost there, of course. The stations and track are in place, we just need to get the service running. When we do, alongside
High Speed Two it will be transformative, and presents huge opportunities for connectivity into the surrounding boroughs.
Internet connectivity is vital. While the current state of play was felt to be sub-optimal, the strength of the digital and creative sectors
in the sub-region and interest among the firms involved suggest that investment would provide a return. There will also be a requirement to store
more data as we move forwards, and this will require the delivery of data centres.
The West London Orbital (WLO) is very important. In coming decades the connections from Brent and Ealing to high employment areas like
Brent Cross and the Great West Corridor will be important.
There is also a an opportunity on the District Line. Olympia is blessed with a rail line that comes to its door, but that sadly the District Line was turned off eight years ago. This was when Olympia had just 700,000 visitors a year, but this has grown to 2m, and Yoo Capital’s plans, investing £1.1bn, aim to grow visitors to 12m.
A focus on local infrastructure needs is important. If current working behaviours persist people are likely to be more reliant on local and suburban centres, working from home more. This should bring a focus on the travel network that brings people to their local centre, or better bus connections to industrial land – getting people out of cars.
CHOOSING WHICH TO PURSUE
So, which to choose? Well, the criteria the table wanted were whether the investment unlocks housing sites, or jobs. Investment needs to be local, and low carbon, and it should tackle social exclusion and spatial inequality across the sub-region.
HOW CAN WE UNLOCK FUNDING?
The themes of how to find funding for the desired infrastructure were collaboration and innovation. Private and public sectors need to work together, one team working together to a shared goal. There needs to be inter-agency collaboration, for example OPDC and the boroughs – and public
private partnerships making joint investments in smaller infrastructure projects to share risk and reward. And on funding, perhaps WLO
could develop its own CIL regime, or perhaps we could look at municipal bonds, or Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
HOW DO WE MAKE THINGS HAPPEN?
Again, collaboration came to the fore. But so did action. COVID and a recession wait for no one. Delivery is key.
The key next steps are prioritising and focusing on delivery – quick wins are needed to build confidence dented by this year. This will be achieved by collaboration which is important to help introduce capital, and that the Build and Recover Strategy developed by the West London Alliance provides a blueprint through which we can progress this agenda.