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Why we need to focus on the future of London's Roads
12 November 2020
There is only one transport network used by every single Londoner, and every single London business. Whilst some people never take the tube and others never leave the country on a plane, London’s roads are unavoidable. But this universality is not always reflected in policy discussions about London’s transport. In 2021, London First is looking to help correct that with a new working group focused on the future of London’s roads.
This is partly because Covid-19 has put road use back on the agenda. From the reallocation of road space and changes to the Congestion Charge through to our collective reliance on home deliveries and the prospect of e‑scooter trials, London’s roads are back in the news. As we move into the post-pandemic economic recovery there is also a very real risk that a fear of public transport leads to greater demand on London’s roads, bringing them to a standstill.
Businesses across London know that clogging up the city’s transport arteries will not be conducive to growth. Nor will it be conducive to meeting our environmental objectives — be they focused on improving local air quality or achieving Net Zero carbon. That’s why London First has cautiously supported many of the innovations on London’s roads over the years — not least the original Congestion Charge. With few options for increasing the supply of road space, managing demand must remain a focus.
But our motivation for establishing this working group also includes the pre-pandemic trends that were getting the warning lights flashing for many London businesses. Congestion was rising, and bus speeds were falling as a result. The Ultra-Low Emissions Zone has long been slated to expand dramatically next year, whilst the challenges of transitioning to electric vehicles persist. Ride hailing apps have changed Londoners’ relationships with private hire vehicles and online shopping has dramatically increased the volume of deliveries across the capital. Covid-19 has only accelerated these trends and challenges.
The Future of London’s Roads working group will bring together businesses, stakeholders, and decision-makers to explore specific issues and develop practical solutions. The working group will take key issues facing London’s road in turn, with the first piece of work focusing on the freight, servicing, and delivery challenges on the network. According to TfL’s 2019 Travel in London report, roads are by far the most important way goods are transported in the capital – accounting for around 90 per cent of physical goods — and the volume is increasing. Yet many of the policy structures underpinning these road movements have remained unreformed for decades.
We believe that now is the time for business leaders, policymakers, and stakeholders from across the capital to work together to find solutions and provide a coherent voice on the future of London’s roads. Our work programme is still taking shape, but to find out more and get involved, please email me.
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