Rapid Development of Rival World Cities

The 12 May 2011 edition of the ‘New Civil Engineer’ brought attention to the recent report by McKinsey Global Institute concerning the growth and economic importance of world cities. This report (PDF of the Executive Summary below) discusses the challenges faced by western cities, due to the rise of Latin America, India and China.


Transport is considered to be one of the vital factors in the competition between these cities, and future planning and investment will be critical in the fortunes of the megacities.

The trends highlighted by McKinsey give food for though for transport planners:

  • 600 cities, containing 1/5 of the world population, could be generating 60% of world GDP by 2025;
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is likely to continue to be centered on cities;
  • the population of these 600 cities will be growing at 1.6 times the overall rate of world population;
  • the fastest population and economic growth will be in the ‘middleweight’ cities not the current leaders;
  • ageing populations will be a feature of cities all over the world (not just in the west); and
  • average household size will continue to decline, increasing pressures for new housing.

One telling comment from the report is as follows:

“Without skillful planning and management, cities run the risk of diseconomies — such as congestion and pollution—starting to outweigh scale benefits, leading to a deteriorating quality of life and a loss of economic dynamism.

The decline in importance of megacities is neither inevitable nor irreversible. Cities can move decisively to tackle infrastructure gaps, improve planning, foster highproductivity jobs, and overcome these diseconomies.”

London is the 10th largest city in the world by population. According to NCE, London’s investment in transport in 2007/8 was £195 per capita. For the whole of the UK the figure was only £100. This perhaps highlights the regional imbalances in infrastructure spending which will be maintained during the construction of Crossrail. However, the McKinsey report highlights the disproportional contribution of cities to national GDP. So, it can be argued that investing in London is good for the whole country, since the economic benefits per £1 of investment are relatively high.

About djtplan

Independent Transport Planner
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