London Transportation System

Introduction

Transportation remains an integral part in any economy. In fact, transportation expenses constitute about 20% of all household expenditures. For most countries, managing the transport system has remained a challenge based on the enormity of its demands. It is for that very reason that the Transport for London (TFL) and the mayor of London have continued to affect modal shifts towards other sustainable forms of transport. Perhaps the biggest driver of this objective stems from the fact that London’s population has continued to expand rapidly hence this has made it a challenge for authorities to properly manage its vast network of air transport, railways, local roads, tube lines, and highways.

It is imperative to note that the city’s urban system continues to rely heavily upon the transportation system built between the early 1800s and after the 2nd World War. In spite of the fact that this system has allowed the city to manage transport fairly well over the years, London continues to be faced with new emerging circumstances. Globalization, rural-urban migration, immigration, and the need to remain competitive have all challenged the way authorities view the transport system. In light of these factors, this report will seek to understand the imperatives of the London transport system, the plans set out by the TFL, and highlight the projected impact of these reforms on the operations of the transport sector in the long-term.

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London and its Transportation Challenges In order to fully appreciate the efforts being put together by the Transport for London, it is first important to first understand the challenges that the city is currently facing. It is expected that this information will provide a comprehensive background that will be needed in order to understand the weight of the challenges of the sector and make a case as to why these changes will be important to the city and its operations. 2.0.1 London’s Population and the Housing Sector London’s population has over the years continued to surpass census estimates. According to a report by the Greater London Authority, GLA (2014),

London’s population is set to grow from its current 8.5 million to over 10 million by the year 2031. This data has been corroborated by other census reports such as the Mayor Transport Strategy report (2010) which indicated that Tower Hamlets and Newham continued to beat census estimates year over year. In this regard, both boroughs recorded population growth of more than 20% with Tower Hamlets recording the fastest growth of the two with over 26.4% increase in growth estimates. Perhaps the biggest driver of this growth can be attributed to London’s expansion of its job market which was projected to grow to 6.3 million by 2050 up from the current 5.4 million jobs in 2016 (Lawrence et al. 2016). The city’s ‘Central Activities Zone’ which accounts for over 30% of its employment core has continued to pile pressure on the existing transport infrastructure. In fact, this problem has been compounded even further by the city’s acute shortage of adequate housing in the city and in its outskirts. TFL has identified an urgent need for the city to build more than 49,000 new homes annually in order to house the growing population. At the moment, the city is only able to deliver about 25,000 new homes each year which is half of the amount needed in order to tackle the huge backlog (London Housing Commission 2016).
3.0 Transport Related Problems The growth of London’s population has brought about a new set of challenges for the city. These problems include congestion, air pollution, and the inefficient use of urban space amongst others. This report will inspect some of these challenges affecting the city. 3.0.1 City Congestion
According to a report by the London Assembly Transport Committee (2017) the huge population using the transport system has contributed to a fall in vehicle speeds on major roads from 19.9 miles per hour in 2013 to 17.7 miles per hour by the year 2016 (GLA 2016). The reason for increased traffic volumes has been attributed to a surge in private vehicles and on-demand taxi services as motorists go about their business within the city.

The effects of this situation includes, amongst many other things, a 14% increase in time delays while the economy loses an estimated 5.5 billion pounds a year (LATC 2017). According to estimates by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, it was estimated that the city stood to lose upwards of 10 billion pounds annually by 2030 if the situation continued to persist (CEBR 2015). 3.0.2 Air Pollution The surge in the demand for personal vehicles and on-demand delivery systems has had a negative impact on the city’s environment. According to a London Assembly Environment Committee report, the surge in vehicles within the city has led to an increase in unwanted health effects owing to two air pollutants, which are, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5) (LAEC 2015). Walton et al. (2015) argued that these two pollutants contributed to a loss of 140,734 life-years annually and cost the economy an estimated close to £3.7 billion a year.
Also, it was estimated that the road transport accounted for more than 22% of the city’s carbon emissions. According to recent estimates by the Greater London Authority, it was estimated that carbon emissions were set to rise by up to 26% by the year 2020 if the situation remained the same. The effect of high pollution has weighed heavily on children who bear the greatest brunt of high nitrogen oxide concentrations which are above the World Health Organization’s stipulated guidelines.

4.0 The Transport System Transformation Efforts by TFL

In light of the challenges facing London’s Transportation System, the Transport for London has in recent years come up with an elaborate plan targeted at different systems. These changes are expected to affect the city’s rail network, its rail network, and air travel.

It is not in doubt that buses remains the most heavily used form of transport used within the city. Whereas buses have contributed towards improving mobility within the city, prolonged wait time due to congestion and other factors have contributed towards reducing their efficiency. In the long-term, analysts argue that buses may not provide an optimal solution to solving the transportation problems.

Part of the reasons for their argument stems from the fact that London’s population is projected to grow to close to 11 million by the year 2041 (GLA 2016). It is estimated that this situation may generate an additional 6 million trips each day by 2041, therefore, making it unlikely that buses will provide the solution to a growing population. In order to solve this problem, TFL has gone the extra mile to introduce a raft of changes which are expected to have a positive impact on the transport sector.

One such change includes the introduction of a diversified transportation mix which includes reducing the population’s dependency on vehicles and public transportation. In this regard, the city is working with other stakeholders towards introducing other alternative transportation options such as cycling and encouraging people to walk on foot. In order to achieve this, the government has made elaborate plans aimed at improving the street environment to improve its appeal and make it more walk friendly in the long term while providing cyclists with designated paths and encouraging the introduction of bike-for-hire platforms (TFL 2017). TFL estimates that this solution may provide both economic and health benefits as there will be less wastage of time while Londoners will get ample physical activity which may present them with a raft of health benefits.

TFL also aims at improving the city’s rail networks by extending the Barking Riverside extension which is expected to add 4.5 km to the London Overground Gospel Oak to Barking Line (TFL 2018). It is estimated that this construction will help complement the efforts of decongesting the city as the city plans to construct 10,800 new homes. The new rail network is expected to provide the needed transport link between Barking Riverside and the Tilbury Line which will have upwards of four trains operating through that route.

The city’s transport problems are expected to ease as the overcrowding and time delays continue to put the city at losing revenue. As part of its ongoing efforts to improve transportation, the TFL also aims at improving station information so as to allow Londoners to become well informed. It is expected that through providing travellers with useful information, they will become better informed of the changes in time and routes they travel so that they can make informed decisions.

As part of its objectives of improving air transport, TFL aims at expanding Heathrow Airport. It plans to succeed by building an additional runway in order to reduce congestion at the airport as well as cater to an additional 170,000 new passengers who are expected to use the airport in the coming years. It is estimated that the provision of a third runway will ease on road transport as travellers may opt to travel by air instead of road. It is, however, worth noting that the expansion of the air transport system is not free of challenges as it is expected that this move will greatly impact air pollution levels as well as contribute towards a surge in noise levels for some 200,000 Londoners.

The city of London through the Transport for London has embraced the use of technology in order to achieve efficiency in the transport sector with the aim of influencing how passengers approach transportation. One such way they have sought to achieve this is through the setting up of information systems that provide real time data to travellers on routes and schedules so as to allow them to make informed choices. Additionally, they have provided seamless payment platforms that are in line with technological advances to fit the needs of an evolving transport system.

For instance, the TFL has made it possible for clients to pay through online digital platforms in order to better plan their movement. Additionally, the TFL is remaining open to the idea of other demand-responsive ways of solving the transportation problem. In this regard, it is considering demand-responsive bus and car sharing services where customers may pay for such services from smartphone apps. It is expected that this surge in the interest of newer ways of approaching the problem would ensure that the organization achieves better capacity and technological building which, in turn, would help minimize transportation challenges.

Ongoing efforts by the TFL have so far yielded some benefits. It has to a commendable extent been able to transform the transport sector through traffic volume control, increasing a variety of alternative transport mix, and securing more funding to improve and expand its projects. One particular achievement includes the traffic volume control through its Active Traffic Management (ATM) system. This system has been pivotal in controlling traffic flows and holding traffic at junctions. Also, because TFL has introduced cycling as part of a bigger variety of its cycling mix, it has been able to improve traffic management through its Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT) while also easing congestion through its Transport for London Road Network (TLRN).

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Conclusion

It is a fact that transportation remains a vital part in the growth of any economy, therefore, prudent management is required in order to ensure that the engines of the economy run properly. As part of its efforts in streamlining the transportation system of the city, the Transport for London has come up with a raft of measures. It is expected that the implementation of these measures will bring about an improvement in the operations management of these economies as the city will be far more efficient in the management of its transportation. That way, the city will be well-placed to achieve its objectives of growth in the long-term.

References

  • Centre for Economics and Business Research [CEBR] (2014). The future economic and environmental costs of gridlock in 2030. Available at:
  • Greater London Authority [GLA] (2016) A City for all Londoners. Available at
  • Greater London Authority [GLA] (2014) London Infrastructure Plan 2050: Transport Supporting Paper. Available at:
  • Lawrence D, Taylor S and Green O (2015). The moving metropolis: a history of London’s transport since 1800. London: Laurence King
  • London Assembly Transport Committee [LATC] (2017) London stalling: Reducing traffic congestion in London, Greater London Authority. Available at:
  • London Housing Commission [LHC] (2016) Building a new deal for London: Final report of the London Housing Commission, IPPR.
  • Transport for London (2018). Planning for the future. Available at:
  • Transport for London (2017) Transport for London submission to London Assembly Transport Committee: Congestion Investigation Call for Evidence, London Assembly Transport Committee. Available at: f
  • Walton H, Dajnak D, Beevers S, Williams M, Watkiss P and Hunt A (2015) Understanding the Health Impacts of Air Pollution in London. London: King’s College London

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