Keeping our capital working for the UK

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London Infrastructure Summit 2014

Leading lights from the construction industry packed out our inaugural London Infrastructure Summit in Kings Cross last week.

Below is a brief overview of the event, but if you couldn’t make it, or you want to have another listen to what was said, we have put audio clips from key moments during the day here to give you a great flavour of the occasion. (A few of these are linked to in the text below.)

London First Chairman Philip Dilley set the tone for the Summit in his welcome address, saying London infrastructure had taken strides forward recently and there was a real sense of momentum building.

But with that optimism came the inevitable caveat that, with the projected growth in the capital, there was no room for complacency. This was quickly reinforced by Bechtel’s Head of Urban Development, Jason Robinson, who reminded us that London’s population is projected to reach 10m by 2030.

A need for political consensus that lasted beyond a single electoral cycle, more financial powers for the Mayor, and a need to better engage with the public were key arguments in the discussion about London’s needs from a long-term infrastructure plan.

The session’s chair, Isabel Dedring, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, also did her best to lay out the GLA’s vision for London in 2050 in a mere three minutes or so.

Then, fresh off his bike, the Mayor of London, took to the stage with typical aplomb. Throwing his weight behind Crossrail 2, Boris Johnson said it should be completed in 2029 – not the mid-2030s as mooted by some officials.

He also courted controversy about HS2 by saying there were many better ways to spend the money, saying: “Being honest, of all the things out there, HS2 is a great idea but I think there are many other better ideas…Crossrail 2 has a better business case than HS2 and so does the [estuary] airport.”

However, he also played to the crowd in his inimitable fashion with predictions about London in 2050. These included Birmingham becoming a London suburb and re-colonising Northern France to ease overcrowding in the Capital.

But serious matters prevailed again quickly, with discussions on how we pay for future London infrastructure, how we make Crossrail 2 a reality, and how we build long-term consensus on London’s infrastructure needs.

Then in a novel new format, we hosted a ‘speed dating’ panel on the right airport solution for London. Proponents of five major plans for airport expansion were given just three minutes to win over the audience to their plans.

In his closing remarks in the final session, Sir Edward Lister, the Deputy Mayor for Planning at the GLA, reminded delegates (if such a reminder were necessary) that the wider UK is far from convinced of London’s value.

“The rest of the country does not like what is happening in London,” he said. “We have a fundamental problem: they want to turn the tap off; they believe the money should be spent elsewhere. One of the big issues we’ve got is actually selling that issue to the rest of the country that investing in London is good for the whole country.”

It was clear from the Summit that there is a lot to be optimistic about in London, but much work remains if we want to keep the momentum going, let alone realise the Capital’s true potential.

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