Mayor calls for £1.3tn investment in London’s infrastructure

The proposed Garden Bridge from South Bank to Temple is part of the new plan

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London needs £1.3tn invested in its infrastructure over the next 35 years to retain its place as one of the world’s leading cities, the Mayor of London has said.

With the capital’s population expected to rise to 11m by 2050, London needs to increase investment in transport, power, education, housing and airports, Boris Johnson said. He announced plans for a London infrastructure delivery board to oversee the work, including representatives from the city’s main contractors.

Infrastructure experts welcomed the initiative but questioned how the money would be raised. Although Britain’s coalition government put new roads, bridges and railways at the heart of its National Infrastructure Plan when it came to power in 2010, infrastructure output fell 5.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Of the £1.3tn estimate, around 60 per cent or £750bn is expected to come from the public sector and £550bn from the private sector. Alexander Jan, director of the consultancy Arup which worked on the report for the mayor, said this left a £185bn funding gap.

“We need a power shift from Whitehall to the mayor and the boroughs in London; unless we strengthen tax-raising powers in London, the plan is unlikely to succeed,” Mr Jan said.

He said the mayor of New York has seven times the revenue raising powers of London. Just 7 per cent of London taxes are controlled by the mayor and the boroughs compared with nearly 50 per cent in New York.

The mayor has been working with the Core Cities Group – which represents some of Britain’s biggest regional cities including Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield – to argue that local authorities should have greater powers to borrow and to use locally raised taxes for infrastructure development.

The £1.3tn London target would imply a more than doubling of the average rates of long-term infrastructure spending seen in recent decades.

Transport accounted for 35 per cent of the total – or £466bn – including six new river crossings, among them a “Garden Bridge” which would link the South Bank of the river with Temple Underground station.

Other projects listed include a new underground north-south rail line, Crossrail 2, new airport capacity, London’s contribution to the proposed High Speed 2 railway line, 200km of new cycle highways, and a new Thames sewer.

The report is thought to be the first attempt since 1944 to develop a long-term infrastructure plan for London.

Jon Hart, head of infrastructure at Pinsent Masons, the law firm, said: “The proof in the pudding is whether this diverges or replicates the problems with the national infrastructure plan, which was all mouth and no trousers.”

Len Duvall, Labour London Assembly for Greenwich and Lewisham, said the “lofty rhetoric” did not match the reality.

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