Montagu Evans were delighted to sponsor the Future of London’s Building Recovery event on the 18th May.

Recovery will be one of the biggest challenges of 2021. Critical to this will be addressing the devastating impact of Covid on equalities. If we don’t tackle this head on, we risk an even more polarised city of haves and have nots, pervading all aspects of city life from unemployment to wellbeing.

Sam Blake, our head of Transport & Infrastructure sector, spoke about a key question around the future of transport at the event:

Travel patterns have and are changing as a result of the pandemic. How do we make sure decisions we make now about transport infrastructure and schemes are fair?

The Pandemic has undoubtedly changed travel patterns… in terms of public transport, less overall use, in particular at peak times, may continue as working patterns have rapidly evolved. However, it remains to be seen quite how ‘sticky’ these new trends will be.

Londoners are now more likely to buy a car sooner than planned than in any other region of the UK according to figures from the largest motor finance group Close Motor Finance. Yet if you have been around areas of Inner London recently, from Wandsworth to Walworth, a huge exercise in road closure has taken place, coinciding with the pandemic. These quick decisions were taken without consultation. The intention was to encourage novice cyclists to use quieter streets, whilst providing pedestrians with space to aid social distancing.

Is this fair? If you are on a neighbourhood app you will have likely seen widespread exasperation with the schemes. People losing an inner city rat-run – in some cases taking huge issue as it disrupts their lives, noting that often those reliant on cars have a disability of some sort.

On the other hand, for those not reliant on cars, things could get exciting – roads take up a huge amount of physical space in our City. Aside from a boost to self-propelled transport, these newly closed spaces could offer more than just a few planters and benches. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Wellbeing pop-ups – local temporary centres that reach out to a community on health matters, improving the accessibility to wellbeing services;
  • Affordable workspace, boosting opportunity for local businesses and local employment.

Now onto the elephant in the room… Electric Vehicles. With these becoming the only new option by 2030, and gas guzzling cars likely to be taxed into oblivion, that leaves only 8.5 years to get sufficient infrastructure in place for this takeover. Currently there are circa 6,000 charging stations in the Capital, yet more than 2.6 million registered vehicles. Electric cars are also significantly more expensive, at least for now. There will need to be a huge push and significant cooperation to get chargers in place across the Capital, with the GLA, London Boroughs and developers working closely together.

In the recovery phase, it is clear that the trade-off between public transport, road use and new technology will be a tightrope we must navigate carefully and with fairness in mind.