The University of North London held a ten-day international workshop this month, examining ways in which Holloway Road, on which the university sits, might be adapted, improved, or changed out of all recognition. The most radical proposal came from a team led by oma, which envisaged Holloway Road in its entirety becoming a gigantic parking space, the linchpin in a monumental park-and-ride scheme. Attending the presentation of this and other proposals last week served as a suitable warm-up for John Prescott's integrated transport review, which reminded us that the clear exposition of principle rarely does a politician harm.
The deputy prime minister has not pulled his punches, and nor should he have. We cannot go on as we are, and only by making radical proposals can we change the conceptual context in which we discuss our future transport arrangements and requirements. The aa 150th anniversary competition last year, set by Cedric Price, opened up ideas about how parts of the City of London could function without vehicles. Now the Architecture Foundation is addressing the same subject, but extending to the whole of the capital (I hope someone does something about travelators - why do pedestrians have to traverse long roads and bridges without help?).
If there is a worry about the integrated transport policy, it is that it will turn into an anti-car vendetta. This would be unfortunate. Integration does not exclude the car; it also means new road-building, especially by-passes, if it is to work as an all-embracing policy. But the scope for fiscal sticks and carrots is enormous; at the moment company-car owners who fail to drive a large number of miles pay extra tax: it is exactly the wrong way round. So too is the split ownership of car parks from rail and tube stations; the car-park owners want to maximise the profits from a monopoly location - thereby discouraging park-and-ride. Mr Prescott's welcome new approach is going to require intelligent action on all fronts.