Gareth Bacon is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.
As many of you will know, London’s population is booming. Current estimates suggest that the population of the city is expected to exceed nine million by 2020 and ten million a decade later – giving it the status of mega-city. This unavoidable surge in population will put a strain on the capital’s transport infrastructure and impose a burden felt by no other city in Europe.
In recognition of this threat, very early in his first term Boris Johnson recognised the importance of transport infrastructure to the success of the city. During his mayoralty, a significant number of crucial infrastructure projects have been commissioned. This includes Crossrail 1, one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects; the extension of the Northern Line to Battersea, thereby opening up South London to the Tube network; and the completion of the London Overground orbital network, which now connects the disparate parts of Outer London.
Despite this success, Sadiq Khan winning the mayoral race would jeopardise Boris Johnson’s transport legacy. In order to cope with a surging population, London needs to push ahead with multiple transport projects and simply cannot delay. As a bare minimum, it needs to receive the final go-head for Crossrail 2, which would connect North to South London; it needs to get a green light for the construction of the Silvertown Tunnel to ease congestion in the East End; and it needs to deliver an extension to the Bakerloo Line that would give South East London access to the Tube network.
All of this would be put at risk if Sadiq Khan were to win the mayoral election. Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate for Mayor has irresponsibly pledged to freeze tube fares in cash terms, not in real terms as Boris Johnson has done over the last few years. Mike Brown, the Chief Executive of Transport for London, has already said that such a move would cost the Capital £1.9 billion in lost fare revenues. This would endanger TfL’s ability to invest in infrastructure, which at a time of a booming population, would mean that London’s crowded Tube network would become even more congested.
In contrast to Labour profligacy, our candidate for mayor, Zac Goldsmith, has put forward fully-costed plans for improving London’s transport network. Zac would continue on Boris’ legacy to invest in transport infrastructure and unlock new homes for development in the process. Zac has set himself an ambitious, but vital, requirement of starting 50,000 homes every year during his term. It we are to hit this target, delivering transport connections to where people actually want to live is crucial.
By continuing to invest in transport and to commission projects such as Crossrail 2, the Sutton Tramlink and extensions to both the Northern and Bakerloo Lines, an extra 270,000 new homes could be built and 250,000 jobs supported. Rather than over-seeing the creation of a vast black hole in the city’s finances as Sadiq Khan would do, Zac Goldsmith would continue to invest in transport infrastructure to improve the network, support the economy and build the homes London desperately needs.
The very prospect of Corbyn’s man winning the key to City Hall should be a prospect terrifying to all. As Conservatives, we simply cannot let Labour experiment with London and undermine the city’s current levels of transport investment. We need our man Zac Goldsmith as Mayor of the greatest city on earth. I implore all London conservatives to support Zac on the campaign trail in the closing stages of the race. Because, in a close election like this one, every vote counts. Let’s do our bit to keep Corbyn’s man out of City Hall and London’s transport network safe.