With the Queen tapping her Oyster Card this week and the Elizabeth Line set to open on 24th May 2022, it is hoped that the buzz around the opening of this extraordinarily complex project will finally drown out that it is happening four years late, and £4bn over budget. However, it’s worth us taking a moment to remind ourselves of the positives of the Crossrail project, and the engineering feat behind it.
It is one of the largest rail infrastructure projects in Europe and is one of the largest single investments ever undertaken in the UK. Aside from increased Underground capacity, well-designed stations, and air-conditioned travel for the summer ahead, the legacy of this project will be measured by how dramatically the transport fabric of our City is about to be re-shaped. Once relatively far-flung locations such as Woolwich will be within ten minutes of Canary Wharf and 20 minutes from the West End. The West End itself will see an uplift in visitor number after the pandemic. Ilford, Abbey Wood, and Ealing, for example, are being transformed as we speak. The line will also make Heathrow that much more accessible boosting the international connectivity – 30 minutes to an hour will be shaved off business trips to many parts of our city.
This is all about agglomeration – London succeeds as a city precisely because it brings so many people together, to create and compete with one another. The ability to draw upon access to an ever-greater population creates pools of expertise and allows for area-based niches, from media-tech around Old Street to med-tech around Kings Cross.
In property terms, the impact of the line is inescapably clear, as growth in average prices in areas surrounding three quarters of Elizabeth line stations outperformed the London average with the largest premiums typically found along the Central and Eastern areas. With trains starting to run through central London next week, some will be questioning whether house prices have peaked, or whether the reality of improved connectivity will push demand further? It is well documented that in major cities, house prices are directly linked to transport connectivity, particularly within five years to opening of new capacity, and whilst proactive investors may have got in early, there may be a second wave of investors and occupiers that prefer to ‘look before you leap’.
As such, it will be crucial to monitor these locations in the coming years. Will there be a second wave of growth? Or has the pandemic reduced our need for good commuter links?
Most excitingly, judging by past transport led city transformations, what new agglomerations may form to push society forward – could a new cluster around an industry of tomorrow like space, food-tech or future entertainment be on the cards? Only time will tell, so for now, tap in and enjoy the ride!