With the price rises announced today, more people than ever will be in the £5K club – those who pay £5000 or more to travel into the capital. For many years I either took the train into London or drove around the M25 to get to the office. I have to say it was never a pleasure. On the train I took the time to read and in many journeys to write some of the first blog articles I ever wrote. In the car I was limited to listening to podcasts, which at the time were tedious to manage as I had to cut them to CD.
What’s sad about the current situation is the fact that so much of our GDP is based out of London. Fewer and fewer people can afford to live in the capital, so the price of housing has pushed out, enveloping more towns and cities and increasing the journey time for commuters. The BBC article indicates that now 3.7 million people commute for 2 hours or more every day. Just think of the wasted time and effort, as well as the stress, the cost and the impact on the environment.
So what is the solution? Look at Milton Keynes and Cambridge and you will see areas where commerce and healthcare have boomed. Although these areas are successful, they also are suffering growing pains. Traffic in Cambridge is awful and house prices are eye watering, despite many new builds.
It’s clear we need more centres of excellence, more locations where firms can establish their business and draw from local talent pools. The government has made efforts with institutions like the BBC, establishing a new base in Manchester and pushing production out to the regions. So, why not encourage businesses to do the same?
Unfortunately part of the problem is the need for infrastructure. Rail is privatised, telecoms are privatised, so without additional investment from the government, no money will be spent to seed new areas of innovation. Privatisation is leaving the UK hamstrung – or the government has to admit privatisation hasn’t worked and fund development themselves.
It would be nice to see the UK government finally accept that building the economy can’t be left to market forces. Concentration of work opportunities in London is a mistake and will restrict future growth. Will UK.gov wake up and smell the coffee? I doubt it.