Mayor of London Boris Johnson recently unveiled plans for the Crossrail stations to be built from west to east London. The designs, by a variety of the UK’s best architects, are so stunning that for the first time you start to believe that the ambitious undertaking will reach completion.
Linking Heathrow airport to Canary Wharf via central London, the Crossrail project has shown the resilience to survive not one but two recessions. It was put on ice in 1994 due to that year’s recession and earlier this year the £16 billion project had its completion date put back a year till 2018 to shave one billion off construction costs.
Undoubtedly, property values along its route will benefit from regeneration and new development. But as docklands showed, you can build snazzy new homes and a decent transport infrastructure but you can’t create the heart and soul of a neighbourhood overnight.
However, some areas that will enjoy the improved transport options are already fantastic places to live. Stations on the central London section of the Crossrail route include Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel.
The areas around these stations have all the ingredients that make London such a fascinating place to live and work in – a unique mix of ancient, modern, shabby and chic. It’s the kind of organic infrastructure that architects can never replicate and businesses that have grown around the lifestyle and needs of existing locals are what give a neighbourhood its character.
All these areas have attracted development designed to capitalise on the Crossrail factor. Paddington has seen acres of disused canal side goods yardage transformed into glitzy residential apartment blocks and the nearby areas of Bayswater, Westbourne Park and Maida Vale will also benefit.
Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road are the most central of the Crossrail stations. Bond Street services Mayfair and is also handy for Marylebone and Soho. Tottenham Court Road sits by the very attractive areas of Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury as well as Covent Garden and Soho.
Farringdon and Liverpool Street will benefit enormously from Crossrail but it is probably Whitechapel that will get the biggest boost. Currently a scruffy no man’s land between The City and Docklands, its regeneration should be the final jigsaw piece that draws Docklands back into London where it geographically and historically belongs.