London will need to summon “the spirit of the Olympic Games” to cope with an unprecedented surge in daily commuters when Crossrail opens, research warns today.
An estimated 250 million passengers a year will pass in and out of the three key central London Crossrail stations – Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street and Farringdon – by 2026, it says.
That is 65 million more than current official forecasts drawn up in 2004 and still being used to plan for the arrival of the £16 billion East-West route.
The dramatic increase has prompted bosses at Transport for London, City of Westminster and the New West End Company to commission an urgent “rule nothing out” report.
It will look into the “radical solutions” that will enable the capital to absorb the expected daily tide of passengers, ranging from widening pavements to closing Oxford Street to traffic.
The new forecasts came in a study from consultants Arup to mark the halfway point in the construction of Crossrail.
It projects that the daily number of passengers using Tottenham Court Road station will rise from 87,000 now to 306,000 by 2026. During the weekday evening peak, 38,000 people an hour will enter and leave the station.
The number passing through Bond Street station will surge from 96,000 now to 284,000, while at Farringdon the increase will rise from 53,000 to 153,000.
Arup director Alex Jan said the required response would need “the Olympian effort that went into making the Games work. We will need some of that spirit in the way people in charge of the West End are inspired in their thinking and effort.
“The difference is that the step change in the morning peak capacity into central London will be day in day out, not just for a 50-day period – it will be in perpetuity. That is an exciting opportunity and a big challenge.”
The extraordinary rise in the forecasts is being driven by much faster than expected population growth in London and across the south-east and by rapid job creation in central London, which will attract increasing numbers of commuters.
The 74-mile route will run from Maidenhead in Berkshire in the west to Shenfield in Essex in the east and will increase London’s peak-time rail capacity by 10 per cent when it fully opens in 2018.
West End planners said the new projections meant adding the equivalent of the population of Portsmouth each day “on top of what is already one of the most congested pieces of real estate in the world”.
The report into solutions, also from Arup and London-based consultants Publica, will be published in the spring and will look at short-term “fixes” such as widening pavements and more Oxford Circus-style “diagonal” pedestrian crossings as well as longer term options that could include pedestrianising major routes to traffic.
Another option that will be considered is the “colonising” of quieter areas, such as Paddington, Edgware Road and the streets close to Euston Road, so that commuters are more widely dispersed.
Sir Peter Rogers, chairman of the New West End Company, which represents traders around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said: “The solutions will have to be radical.”