ANYONE who works in the Square Mile will know how empty it can feel in August as City workers – myself included – decamp for a well earned break. And yet, somehow, this summer downturn appears to have no impact whatsoever on the overcrowded tubes, trains and buses bringing commuters into the City at rush-hour.
Of course, this is the price we pay for being one of the world’s leading financial centres, particularly one with a relatively ancient public transport network operating well above its optimum capacity.
Transport for London, in cooperation with London’s local authorities and the GLA, is constantly working to alleviate these problems and, as a result, London’s transport links are in a constant state of upgrade and overhaul. With nearly 300,000 people coming to work in the Square Mile every day, the City, quite rightly, is the focus of many of these projects.
In addition to the construction of Crossrail and the planned tube upgrades – both of which the City of London has long been pressing for ?– Blackfriars station is in the middle of a comprehensive modernisation programme, similar works on Canon Street are now underway and the long-standing plans to improve Bank junction continue to move forward.
All of these projects are vital to the City’s continuing ability to compete with other financial centres overseas – particularly the purpose built business districts with state of the art transport links in the emerging markets of Asia and the Middle East – and the City’s overall business offer will be significantly diminished if they are not delivered on time and in full.
In the meantime, City commuters are increasingly looking for alternative ways to get into work. And with the introduction of the Barclay’s Cycle Hire Scheme and the dedicated “cycling superhighways”, this trend looks set to continue.
That is why, as part of European Mobility Week (16-22 September), the City of London Corporation is calling on City managers to get on their bikes and raise money for the charity Re-Cycle by taking part in the City Cycle Challenge.
With many firms already committed to promoting cycling amongst their employees, this challenge offers business leaders a chance to raise awareness of cycling as a viable alternative to public transport.
If you fancy taking part in the challenge, or if you want to see your boss getting on his bike in the name of charity, please visit the City of London website (www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/cyclechallenge) for more details.
I remain hopeful that this change in culture amongst City commuters, combined with the forthcoming planned improvements, will help to ease the strain on our public transport network, allowing people to travel in relative comfort – even in rush-hour – and the City to continue to thrive and grow in the years to come.
Nick Anstee is Lord Mayor of the City of London