Monday, 14 July 2008

Instead of the Olympics

by Tobias Gregson

The British state is intent on wasting billions on the circus that is known as the London 2012 Olympics.

When you get as ancient as me you learn to be sceptical of the utility of public works projects in general. They often seem to be the economic equivalent of paying men to dig holes and fill them in again. Even when they have seeming utility they inevitably distort local markets, subsidising the few at the expense of the many and creating winners and losers in the process.

But if money is to be spent, it is fun to fantasize about what else it could be spent on (if it were not being pissed down the Olympic drain). What genuine good could this vast sum of money do for the metropolis? My favourite idea is this: a tube system for South London.

South Londoners have long been second-class citizens when it comes to the London Underground. Historically this is because South London had a good overground rail network before most of North London. But now the lack of tube infrastructure in the South is a great hindrance that has led to a top-heavy city.

And the South of the river has much to offer all Londoners: huge green spaces that rival the Royal parks, incredible museums such as the Horniman in Forest Hill and unique buildings such as Eltham Palace. But many will never see these things because they aren't on the tube.

And isn't the tube our best bet for what they call "social inclusion"? What is going to help our stab-happy South London youth more: some short-lived enthusiasm for triple-jumping or quick access to all the culture and job prospects that the nation's capital has to offer?

Isn't it time we redressed the Underground inbalance? If we spent the Olympic £10 Billion on a South London tube system instead--a proper one, not poxy overground extensions--how near could we get to the fantasy depicted in this fun image?:

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