Does London need a new accessibility tool for public transport?


  • Jan Scheurer RMIT University
  • Enrica Papa University of Westminster


Accessibility planning, Public transport, Urban intensification, London




Both in a UK and an international context, London has frequently pioneered innovative approaches to transport policy throughout its history. From the world’s first underground railway in 1863 to the introduction of central area congestion charging in the 2000s, such innovations have typically addressed development pressures and spatial constraints that manifested sooner and more drastically in London than in smaller and perhaps slower-growing peer cities elsewhere in Europe. Simultaneously, this local evolutionary edge in transport planning has long coexisted uneasily with a national policy environment described as incoherent and beholden by dogma (Wolmar, 2016) and erroneously focussed on reducing travel times rather than the facilitation of economic development (Metz, 2016).

London’s public transport network is characterised by a plethora of legacy rail infrastructure distributed unevenly over the metropolitan area, and a bus network whose operational input exceeds that of any other developed city the authors are aware of. This results both in a near-ubiquitous presence of frequent public transport travel opportunities and in gaping spatial and operational inefficiencies. Applying the Spatial Network Analysis for Multimodal Urban Transport Systems (SNAMUTS) tool (Curtis and Scheurer, 2016) in a megacity for the first time, this contribution will show how these strengths and shortfalls can be mapped and quantified in geographical detail. The intention is to make a critical complementary contribution to existing accessibility tools such as Space Syntax, pioneered in London but criticised for neglecting the role of public transport (Curtis and Scheurer, 2010), and  the  Public Transport Accessibility Levels (PTAL), developed and used extensively by the GLA metropolitan transport authority and the London Boroughs but lacking a network-level perspective that could capture and evoke policy responses to the extraordinary pressures experienced by a heavily used public transport system in the context of rapid urban intensification.

Author Biography

  • Enrica Papa, University of Westminster

    Reader in Transport Planning

    School of Architecture and Cities 


Curtis C, Scheurer J (2010) Planning for Sustainable Accessibility: Developing tools to aid discussion and decision-making. Progress in Planning, Vol 74, pp 53–106

Curtis C, Scheurer J (2016) Planning for Public Transport Accessibility. An International Sourcebook. Routledge, Oxon, UK

Metz D (2016) Travel Fast or Smart? A manifesto for an intelligent transport policy. London Publishing Partnership, London, UK

Wolmar C (2016) Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no transport policy. London Publishing Partnership, London, UK