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George Osborne: Transport, homes and culture - the keys to a new plan for London

The Chancellor promises the National Infrastructure Plan unveiled today is worthy of thew world's greatest capital city

Tunnel vision: Crossrail's tunnelling  is almost 90 per cent complete - now the focus shifts to planning Crossrail 2
Tunnel vision: Crossrail's tunnelling is almost 90 per cent complete - now the focus shifts to planning Crossrail 2
02 December 2014

grew up in London, and am proud of our beautiful, dynamic, diverse capital city. It is not surprising that an ever-increasing number of people are choosing to find jobs in the capital and raise their families here. But this poses a challenge — London’s population has grown by more than a million since 2001, the largest-ever increase in the city’s long history. We need to meet that challenge with a long-term plan for London’s infrastructure — so Londoners can afford homes, travel to work easily and have good jobs.

So today the Government has published our National Infrastructure Plan, including our plan for London. It’s been drawn up with a view to London’s future, and I’ve worked with Mayor Boris Johnson to make sure it will work.

We’re already upgrading key parts of London’s infrastructure with ambitious projects which are well under way. People can see the construction taking place all around them. There have been major investments in the Victoria and Jubilee lines, and work has now been completed on the redevelopment of King’s Cross station. We’re supporting the Thameslink upgrade — a £6.5 billion government-backed project to transform one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway. By 2018, there will be 24 trains running on this line every hour — that’s a national rail service from Brighton to Bedford through the centre of London running more frequently than the Piccadilly line.

And most exciting of all is the progress on delivering Crossrail. Ninety per cent of the tunnelling for the biggest construction project in Europe is complete, on time and on budget. It is an incredible feat of engineering, as I saw for myself when I visited the tunnel in Woolwich earlier in the year. When it opens in 2018, it will transform travelling into and across London, cutting journey times from Canary Wharf to Paddington to 16 minutes and Liverpool Street to six minutes.

But the National Infrastructure Plan doesn’t just set out our progress to date; it sets out a comprehensive plan for London’s future.

Today I am announcing funding for a full business case for Crossrail 2, led jointly by government and Transport for London. This is the new line that could run from Alexandra Palace through Euston, Chelsea, Clapham Junction and Wimbledon. I want a serious analysis of potential costs and timescales, to be ready ahead of the Spending Review in the autumn next year.

It is a project that has long been discussed — I remember people talking about the Chelsea to Hackney Tube line when I was a kid. Now we need to look at how to get the idea off the page and into construction, and today we take the first big steps to do that. Alongside this we’ll be looking into all options for other major transport projects in London, including the extension of the Bakerloo line further into south-east London.

Transport investment is, however, just one aspect of our plan for London. I want to make sure that we are taking steps to raise the standard of housing, the availability of jobs, and the quality of life across all parts of the city.

I know that housing is a concern for many in London. I want all Londoners to enjoy the security, comfort and peace of mind that comes with having your own home. Whether it’s renting or buying, the only way we can achieve this is with a long-term plan to build more houses in and around the capital, to bring supply back in line with demand.

As Chancellor, I am not prepared to stand by and allow those who have been fortunate enough to own their own homes simply to pull up the property ladder behind them. So, with Boris, we’ve set out plans for 20 new housing zones across the capital, where homes will be built on brownfield sites, backed by investment from the Government and Greater London Authority.

I’m also launching a £150 million programme to regenerate some of London’s most run-down housing estates. We have now given four projects the green light, across Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Barnet, where I visited the Grahame Park estate to see for myself the challenge in front of us. These projects will not only completely transform these estates, and the lives of those who live there, but could provide 8,000 new homes for London’s families.

Today’s National Infrastructure Plan will be crucial to that, providing backing for regeneration projects to boost housing supply across the capital. We’re supporting the Barking Riverside development with plans to extend the London Overground. We’re supporting local Conservative MPs in developing a serious analysis of the costs and timescales for the regeneration of Brent Cross. And we’re starting the same process with Croydon, where I’m working with local MP Gavin Barwell on a plan for a Growth Zone to boost homes and jobs. Together these three schemes alone could deliver more than 20,000 new homes for families in London.

But London is about more than homes and transport. It’s about great culture too. Today, in the National Infrastructure Plan, I will be setting out plans for £140 million of government investment in the Mayor of London’s plans to redevelop the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The exciting plans are for the construction of a new higher education and cultural sector in east London, working with some of the city’s most famous institutions — University College London, the Victoria & Albert Museum, University of the Arts London and Sadler’s Wells. This project will secure the legacy of our wonderful Olympics, as well as creating thousands of jobs and boosting London’s economy by an estimated £95 million each year.

And that is what today’s National Infrastructure Plan is all about — real investment in London to make improvements in the short term and to plan for growth in the long term. It’s an ambitious vision fit for the greatest capital city on Earth.