A Car-free London?
My unsuccessful submission for the Ideas Competition held by the Architecture Foundation in Autumn 1998
Making London car-free necessitates freeing space on crowded railways by reducing numbers working in Central
London. This is achievable by creating zones that are rate-free for one industry around important outer London
interchanges. This works best with industries that have a high staff turnover. For example, publishers around Stratford
and software companies around Clapham Junction would have rate-free status for ten years. Being accessible to fewer
employees would initially disadvantage companies moving to the zones.
Within ten years, staff clusters in the relevant industries would surround the railway networks feeding
the zones. Zone companies would then have an advantage over Central London companies in recruiting staff for their
industry, so when rate-free status ended, Stratford's "Publishing Valley" and Clapham's "Silicon
Junction" would persist indefinitely.
This would ease the most crowded sections of the Underground, allowing an increased proportion of staff
in other industries to use railways into Central London. London's architecture would be improved by rebuilding
the currently neglected zones to resemble Paris's La Défense. Diminishing demand for Central London office
space might harm the property market, but a solution could involve an "ugly tax" - companies who poison
rivers are fined, so why not fine companies whose buildings make London ugly? Industries remaining in Central London
would gravitate towards beautiful buildings, allowing us to replace ugly buildings and adjacent roads with lakes
Park and Ride is another solution to congestion. Building Green Belt car parks is unacceptable, but significant
areas of Green Belt land are currently worthless because they are enclosed between slip roads of M25 junctions.
Few would object to a car park inside the M4/M25 junction, which luckily has a railway through it. Railways also
run very close to several other spacious junctions. Low car-only clearances would suffice in the car parks, minimising