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Transport in the London Sub Regions

Transport in the London Sub Regions

For many years data on transport in London had been aligned to Central London and the concentric rings of Inner and Outer London. This project reviewed and collated transport data according to the newly-established London sub-regions, namely Central, North, South, East and West. 

The work was presented at the PTRC SAM conference, Nottingham University, 3-4 July 2003. The paper was titled "Towards a sub-regional transport framework for London" and focuses on the East sub-region as an example (see pdf).

The draft databank reports and an executive summary are available for download here (see pdfs). Information about any errors in the data would be welcome.

London: circles or segments?

Data in London used to be presented typically for a "target" view of the city: Central London (bullseye) and an inner and and outer ring. In 2003 it was decided, for transport and planning purposes, to divide London instead into segments: North South, East and West, and a (larger) central area. There were at least two strands of logic. First the segments related to Borough Boundaries (the circles did not). Second, the segments relate to perceptions and use of the city - movement tends to be in and out, not round and round.

Hopefully, abandoning the ring structure will calm the enthusiasm for orbital transport infrastructure. The London "ringways" motorway plan of the 1960s was a prime example of a mis-understanding of the structure of the city. (The story is told elsewhere on this website.)

Do boundaries affect policy?

The old Central, Inner and Outer areas of London displayed a set of differentiating characteristics that became well known. There were some who argued, however, that the differences in terms of deprivation, density, employment, commuting, car ownership, public transport accessibility, and so on, had led to stereotyped views and to an over-simplification of policies. For example, there are many pockets of deprivation in outer London, and many pockets of wealth in Inner London. The move to draw boundaries that divided London into segments rather than rings offered the prospect of taking better account of the fine grain of differentiation across Greater London.

Having re-run the data according to the new sub-regional segments, however, it becomes clear by looking at the graphics in the databank reports (see pdfs) that the inner and outer distinctions are still very prominent. 

A new central London?

The Central sub-region is very much larger than the former Central London area (see map), but the characteristics in terms of accessibility and employment are still dominated by the former compact area. The area of central functions has not greatly extended, and the new central sub-region mainly enlarged by the addition of some parts of inner London - high density and mixed but predominantly residential. The one respect in which central functions have visibly expanded is at Canary Wharf, but this falls within the East sub region. Also, by 2000 the employment there had grown to only about 5% of that in Central London.

Where has the river gone?

The East sub-region straddles the river Thames (see banner image above). The logic of this is not clear. Traditionally interaction between the areas north and south of the river was limited, and confined mostly to the Dockland areas, with labour movement especially from the south to the north bank. The absence of any fixed crossing east of the Blackwall tunnel (until the Dartford crossings, way out beyond the Greater London boundary) kept it that way.

The East sub-region boundary ignores this major natural division of territory. Was this a deliberate attempt to boost the case for new road crossings of the river? Plans were afoot for two new road crossings, and these were included in the sub regional study. A year after this data project was complete, Mayor Livingstone and Transport for London formally proposed a new Thames Gateway bridge (approved in December 2004 and shown in the banner image above). But why does the Thames need to be overcome? The coast lines of Essex and Kent, and their London estuary extensions could simply be treated as if they were no different from the coastlines of Suffolk and Sussex. Why are connections necessary simply by reason of proximity? The (rather limp) answer is probably "because they are possible"! The controversy of the bridge rumbles on. Mayor Boris Johnson scrapped it. Ken Livingstone pledged (May 2011) to resurrect it if re-elected....

Read more

A summary of the constituent boroughs of the London sub-regions and their populatrions can be found on Wikipedia:

LocationLondon England
Client(s)Transport for London
Team(s)Tim Pharoah seconded to TfL with Llewelyn Davies team


London data, transport data, London sub-regions, Thames Gateway bridge, river crossings