Last year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) produced updated population forecasts for the UK. These make for very interesting reading and serve to illustrate the challenges facing planners over the next few decades. According to ONS, the UK population is expected to grow from 62.3 million in 2010 to 73.2m in 2035. For England ONS anticipate growth from 52.2m in 2010 to 62.1m in 2035. This growth was expressed in terms of a city the size of Bristol being added to our population each year.
If population growth in England is expected to be around 10 million in the period to 2035, one must wonder about the full implications for each of the regions, and particularly London and the south-east.
There can be no complacency about the ability of the transport network to cope with the ONS forecasts. Policies and interventions to reduce travel demand by motorised modes and to encourage walking and cycling will play their part, but it seems inevitable that the entire transport system will need significantly more capacity and better operational management.
It is salutory to remember that the 1997 National Road Traffic Forecasts anticipated that the population of Great Britain would increase by 3.3% from 1996 to 2031 ! How things have changed in the last 15 years.