Transport: West London Orbital not a priority

Londons towns At the Transport seminar at New London Architecture’s London’s Towns exhibition, speakers and delegates agreed vigorously that orbital transport needs improvement, but TfL remain focussed on Crossrail and Thameslink.

West London Orbital, the plan for a new tube line linking Kingston to Brent Cross, and connecting most of West London’s radial routes, was conspicuously omitted from most of the key speeches. Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s transport adviser, mentioned North, East and South London orbital proposals, but failed to mention the west at all. Perhaps that was a simple omission.

It took a couple of hours for the West London Orbital plan to even be mentioned, which was in a round-up session touching on all of the proposals currently in play. That session brought home the wide array of plans that have been tabled, and emphasised the difficulties faced by TfL, with limited budgets, in prioritising schemes.

Crossrail routemap They are clearly focussed on Crossrail, which will bring significant benefits to West London, and Thameslink, which won’t. Still, this is an understandable choice, even if it produces the ‘all lines lead to Farringdon’ effect at the station where the two lines intersect. That’s going to be one very busy interchange when both lines are complete.

London Overground – the quasi-orbital network including the North London Line from Richmond to Wllesden Junction, and the West London Line from Clapham Junction also to Willesden Junction – was mentioned, and seems likely to be improved. Plans are already in train to up frequencies on the northern segment, and the proposed East London Line extension (phase 2 – on hold at present) would connect that network round to New Cross and Stratford in the East.

Interesting data from LB Croydon showed that Tramlink has helped reduced unemployment by 9.3%, and raise property prices by 4% in areas surrounding the new stations. Perhaps, as Steve Atkins of MVA said, the best thing for West London to do is to focus on spreading this benefit out from the immediate environs of the Crossrail stations. And a way to do this may be to focus on the express bus routes such as Fastbus through Park Royal, mentioned by Steve Devine of Park Royal Partnership.

Otherwise all the effort over the next few years will go on improving radial travel, which may well raise PTAL values (quotients which measure access to transport for particular locations), but won’t make getting around any easier. As Tony Travers of the London School of Economics said from the chair “the real challenge seems not to be linking outer London to Central London, but linking bits of outer London to other bits of outer London”.

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