London is a city that has always been defined by its openness — to people, investment and ideas. We see this openness running throughout the London-focused results of AECOM’s second global Future of Infrastructure report.
For this research, we asked over 1,000 people in London for their views on city infrastructure and their ambitions for its future evolution. What we found is that citizens recognise the innovative steps city leaders are taking to bring London’s infrastructure up-to-date, for example, revolutionising how we plan and pay for our travel.
But they also understand the challenges that the city’s transport systems and utilities face. They are keen for action to build a greener, safer, digitally driven and better-connected London equipped to succeed in the years ahead.
For Londoners, smarter, faster, better infrastructure is a team effort. Citizens want to have more say on infrastructure issues such as planning. They’re open to greater private sector involvement in infrastructure development and also show a willingness to pay higher taxes to fund infrastructure improvements, for example, in return for better quality, more reliable and resilient systems.
AECOM has extensive experience of working in London and other major global cities. With our network of planners, designers, engineers and management professionals, we have the knowledge and reach to develop and deliver innovative infrastructure solutions that improve lives and connect communities.
David Barwell, CEO, UK and Ireland, AECOM
London is in an elite club; it’s one of only two cities in the world to be given an Alpha ++ global ranking by the leading ranking organisation, Globalization and World Rankings Research Institute. The other is New York. London’s competitive edge is built around its openness, connectivity, flexibility and diverse population.
To continue its success, London must think big. International influence is moving eastwards and London needs to secure its place in a post-Brexit world. The city, along with the rest of the UK, also faces a series of tough challenges around housing, employment, the environment and delivery of infrastructure. The city’s ambitions to remain a world leader are unequivocal, and Londoners recognise the need for greater collaboration, smarter thinking and engagement to realise them.
In collaboration with Longitude — a Financial Times Company, AECOM’s Future of Infrastructure research harnesses survey data and opinions from over 10,000 infrastructure users in 10 major global cities, including London, to ask how satisfied, safe, inspired and engaged people feel with their roads and bridges, rail services and utilities.
Greater sustainability, digital resilience and transport connections — these are three of the big infrastructure issues topping Londoners’ future wish lists, and align with the Mayor’s ambitions for a greener, smarter city.
Reinforcing #LondonIsOpen to investment and collaboration, 57% of citizens agreed that the private sector should be more involved in infrastructure development.
Many find London’s transport systems and utilities to be reliable and affordable, others highlight challenges. Nearly two-thirds of our survey respondents agree that using the city’s public transport is becoming more stressful.
Citizens don’t think that the politics involved in infrastructure helps or that their voice counts. But they are prepared to play their part, 39% agree that they would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund infrastructure improvements and 47% would be happy to share their personal data with city authorities to deliver better infrastructure.
Almost one-quarter (23%) of citizens rate the reliability of public transport in London as 'poor/very poor'. And only 25% of respondents overall would be willing to pay even higher fares for public transportation in the future.
London’s roads are also a concern, 75% believe that the state of the roads has worsened or not changed in the last 12 months.
Crucially, 39% of London respondents would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund improvements to infrastructure overall.
Of the 10 major cities surveyed, London ranked third (behind Hong Kong and Singapore) in terms of citizens’ satisfaction with infrastructure. But a closer look highlights areas for improvement.
Most respondents found their water and electricity services to be affordable (58% and 47% respectively) and reliable (62% — no water outages/56% — no power cuts). Fewer than a quarter, however, feel that the service they’ve received from their water (22%) and electricity (23%) providers has got better in the last 12 months. For the majority of users, these services have either not changed or got worse compared to the previous year.
Some respondents faced major problems: 11% said that they or a neighbour had experienced three or more power cuts to their home in the past 12 months, with 12% of users citing three or more instances of water outages or restricted supplies to their property across the year.
This perceived lack of engagement, along with recent controversies surrounding some proposed projects such as the Garden Bridge, could be informing Londoners’ dissatisfaction with infrastructure management and delivery.
Some 49% of respondents think that changes in elected city officials often result in major changes to infrastructure policy. Fewer than one in three feels that those in power are making the right decisions about which projects to fund.
More than one-half of respondents (52%) believe that city officials take a short-term view of infrastructure planning, with 59% stating that large-scale transportation projects in the capital are usually delivered late.
London is not alone in thinking like this. It’s a similar picture in Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Hong Kong and Chicago. And many Londoners (57%) agree that the private sector should be more involved in infrastructure development. The inference being that this could help to improve things.
In terms of innovation, London believes it has a head start. As London’s Oyster card celebrates its 15th birthday, more Londoners (45%) agree that they have innovative payment options available to them for public transport than those who disagree (17%). In addition, 58% of Londoners now use mobile apps to keep up-to-date with public transport services.
And, in a digitally driven future with London’s infrastructure evolving to become smarter, the city’s citizens recognise the importance of fast fibre-optic broadband for their quality of life.
Like other major cities, London faces a number of environmental challenges, including poor air quality and noise pollution, protecting its green spaces and the ever-growing impact of climate change.
Air quality statistics and research
Mayor's noise strategy
Natural capital account for London
The future we don't want
Reflecting this, citizens are focused on building a greener city. When asked, respondents identified improving environmental sustainability, upgrading water and power utilities and protecting against the impact of natural disasters to be among the most necessary improvements to infrastructure for their future.
Citizens also considered solar power and smart (digital) electricity meters in the home to be two of the top four technologies likely to have the biggest positive impact on their quality of life in the years ahead. Many Londoners also recognise the important role data will play in delivering smarter, better infrastructure to cities, and 47% say they are happy to share their personal data with relevant city agencies to help improve things.
This reinforces what infrastructure professionals told us last year, when 70% of respondents in our 2018 Future of Infrastructure report felt that it is fairly likely or almost certain that hackers will disrupt the transportation network.
Higher than any other major city questioned, more than half (52%) of Londoners say that they have not been informed of drills or exercises to help prepare their city for emergency situations in the past two years. This lack of awareness could be feeding into citizens’ perceptions about London’s readiness to deal with such threats, 36% question the ability of London’s infrastructure to withstand the impact of a terrorist attack, compared to 38% who think it can.
Another big concern is climate change. Some 40% of respondents believe their city government is falling behind other cities when it comes to sustainability. And over a third of citizens (37%) are not confident in the capital’s ability to protect them against natural disasters, such as flooding — underscoring the priority respondents place on investing in infrastructure and technologies that mitigate these risks.
This is a common belief across the major cities surveyed, with many feeling like their governments were falling behind on sustainability.