The independent London newspaper

Upgrade London’s local transport network now

22 June, 2018

How Oxford Street could have looked

• THE victory against the pedestrian plan does not signify that adjacent areas are not about to see conditions worsen, (Millions betrayed by collapse of Oxford Street scheme, claims humiliated Mayor Khan, June 15).

Crossrail passengers, and others from future mass import transport upgrades, are about to overwhelm not just Oxford Street but Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Euston, Holborn, St Giles, Fitzrovia, Mayfair, Paddington and Soho.

Is there an alternative plan to deal with this? The answer is to improve central London’s local transport network.

Other major European cities have tram systems. Long continental-style trams are inappropriate for central London’s road grid. Old style London double-decker trams traversing west-east parallel to Oxford Street but repeatedly crossing it on the north-south axis would be feasible.

Who would pay? Oxford Street is surrounded by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which have pre-positioned themselves to benefit from the impending deluge in visitors.

BIDs override local concerns and local democracy, are unaccountable to wider scrutiny, trend towards local government corporatisation, push out smaller businesses, destroy built heritage (counter-productive if they wish to market London’s uniqueness in contrast to the Westfields of this world) and, so far, have managed to offset criticism by making minimal token payments to special-interest concerns and positioned shills.

Do BIDs exist merely to exploit the areas they have set up in? The impending drastic visitor increase can be addressed by forcing BIDs to reinvest their rising property portfolio evaluations and profit from increased customer footfall into long-term and well-thought-out improvements, not political gimmicks, to central London’s infrastructure.

The London Mayor’s Office and Transport for London could raise a levy from the BID areas that the trams go through. Westminster and Camden councils could stipulate that BIDs contribute, when their levy conditions come up for renewal every five years, to tram system maintenance and security.

Residents, businesses and visitors truly would benefit from this investment; and BIDs would, at last, be brought under wider democratic oversight.

Cleveland Street, W1


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