Where to eat on the Elizabeth Line

Finally, after more than three years of delays and a couple of ripped up budgets, the Elizabeth Line is set to open this month. This new purple squiggle on the TfL map will mean we can zip from Paddington to Canary Wharf in just 17 minutes (half the current time) and, when the next sections open in autumn, from Tottenham Court Road to Ealing Broadway in just 13 (down from 28). These super-fast connections will open up a whole new world of dining opportunities and put underappreciated restaurants in far-flung locations on the proverbial map. These are the five places you need to discover. Allegra Nearest station: Stratford With its

Where to buy along the Elizabeth Line

Finally, on 24 May, CrossRail will open. Named The Elizabeth Line, the stats are extraordinary and impressive. An £18.7 billion infrastructure project for a 62-mile-long railway line with stations stretching from Reading in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It has taken 20 years to bring the project to fruition with the inevitable overspend running into billions. Once open, it will increase the London rail network’s capacity by ten per cent. Now, if you’re expecting the whole line to open all at once, you’d be mistaken. The central section will open offering a train service between Paddington and Abbey Wood. The Bond Street stop won’t open for another

How we did the locomotion: A Brief History of Motion, by Tom Standage, reviewed

Audi will make no more fuel engines after 2035. So that’s the end of the Age of Combustion, signalled by a puff of immaculately catalysed smoke from polished chrome exhausts designed by fanatics in Ingolstadt. But some say the age of motion itself will have shuddered to a halt before then. A trope of the New Yorker is a cartoon showing cavemen inventing the wheel, a companion to the other trope of desert island castaways. The adventure promised by the wheel and the limitations of boring stationary solitude are ineffably linked. Since Homo erectus left Africa 1.75 million years ago, without wheels, moving our bodies through space has been a

The Nicola Sturgeon effect on house prices

Nicola Sturgeon depresses me and seems to be having the same effect on Scottish house prices. In a housing market described by departing Bank of England economist Andy Haldane as ‘on fire’, the flames have been rising higher the further away from London — but more or less extinguishing themselves at Hadrian’s Wall. Why buyers are scarcer in Nicola’s domain is a question I’ll leave to our political writers, but the broader picture of soaring home prices across the rest of the UK is an unforeseen pandemic effect that may have painful consequences. Nationwide’s June data shows an annual price-rise bar chart increasing steadily from 7.3 per cent in London

Ruthless Ryanair could show us the future of aviation

Aviation, nuclear power and public transport — along with good restaurants, golden retrievers and hand-knitted bed socks — are, as Julie Andrews put it, a few of my favourite things. So in a week when the news is as depressing as I can remember since the dark winter of 1973-4, I might as well write about all of them. I’ll try to find points of light along the way but it’s not going to be easy. First the plight of airlines, now so extreme that it’s hard to foresee any outcome other than nationalisation for many major carriers. Even if the new ban on leisure travel ends, only pre-flight Covid

In favour of nationalisation? Take a look at Network Rail

We don’t hear enough about Network Rail these days. By that I mean that the entity recently described by the Sunday Times as ‘synonymous with incompetence and delays’ doesn’t receive anything like the abuse it deserves for failing to provide the infrastructure essential for a 21st-century railway. I refer you to the Crossrail project, in which the inability of new trains to connect with old Network Rail signalling systems is one reason for the delayed opening that has become a major national embarrassment. I invite you to observe LNER’s expensive new fleet of Azuma bullet trains that were due to launch in December but delayed by incompatibility with Network Rail

Bramson the corporate raider is not wrong about Barclays

If you know my personal history with Barclays, you may be wondering whether I’m for or against Edward Bramson. To recap, I’m a former second-generation employee of the bank as well as the custodian of a family shareholding that’s never likely to be sold — and nowadays, rather miraculously given everything that’s happened to me and the bank since I left 27 years ago, a recipient of its pension largesse. Bramson, by contrast, is a Johnny-come-lately: a New York-based ‘activist investor’ whose firm Sherborne has become Barclays’ third largest shareholder by building a 5.5 per cent stake, and who is seeking a seat on the bank’s board at next week’s

Who’s really to blame for the Crossrail fiasco?

There’s been a strong sense of pre-Christmas turkeys coming home to roost in this week’s news, as stories I’ve written about for months or years have reached, if not a denouement, then at least a new twist in the plot. Saddest of these is Crossrail, London’s east-west mass–transit system that was originally scheduled for its royal opening next week: now we hear it needs ‘hundreds of millions’ more of public money if it is to meet its delayed completion a year hence, though even that date no longer looks a safe bet. Its chairman Sir Terry Morgan has announced that he’s waiting to be sacked, both from Crossrail and from

Why can’t Britain hang on to its best new companies?

Costa, in my opinion, sells a decent cup of coffee. It employs polite youngsters who seem happy in their work. If you’re desperate for caffeine, even its petrol-station vending machines are not too bad. And unlike the UK operation of Starbucks, whose coffee is vile, it pays tax on its profits at close to the full rate of corporation tax. Founded by two Italian brothers in London’s Vauxhall Bridge Road in 1971, it’s a triumph of brand development — and a credit to its current owner Whitbread, which acquired Costa as a diversification from its own traditional brewing business in 1995. Now Costa has been sold to Coca-Cola for a

Let’s not cancel the Crossrail celebrations yet

Until a few days ago, reporting of the almost completed Crossrail project had been focused chiefly on the impact of the new Elizabeth Line on local house prices, ‘Still time to buy into Acton’s Crossrail hot spot’ being a typical example. Now we learn that the project’s much repeated if slightly fudged claim about being delivered within an overall £14.8 billion ‘funding envelope’ has almost certainly been blown. A £190 million budget overrun for the year to March, and the departure of chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme to join BAE Systems, were the first indications of problems that may now require a £500 million bailout to see the job finished in time for

Hooray for a British industrial hero at the top of the Rich List

It’s heartening to see an authentic British entrepreneur heading this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, the industrial-ist Jim Ratcliffe, who has overtaken a coach-load of oligarchs as well as the Duke of Westminster with an estimated £21 billion fortune. This column has long admired Ratcliffe, whose Ineos chemicals conglomerate was built by buying up businesses his major competitors did not want. During his stand-off with the Unite union at the Grangemouth Refinery in Scotland in 2013, I called him ‘an industrial hero’ who deserved to be made a Knight of the Thistle for his willingness to invest in such an unpromising site. While BBC Scotland expressed the more common view of

Forget a Channel bridge and celebrate Crossrail

This column has long been a sucker for a grand projet. ‘Time for a trip to Boris Island,’ I gushed in 2010 when London’s then mayor came up with his much-mocked (though in engineering terms not unfeasible) wheeze to shift Heathrow to a giant man-made landing strip in the Thames estuary. But even I could see no merit in the Foreign Secretary’s equally unscripted suggestion, during the recent Sandhurst summit with President Macron, of a bridge across the Channel — which would play havoc with vital shipping lanes and cost upwards of £120 billion. If the objective is to facilitate continuing trade with Macron’s compatriots after we leave the EU,

Letters | 22 September 2016

Remote control Sir: Rachel Wolf argues that in education policy ‘the trend, from Kenneth Baker onwards, has been towards giving schools autonomy and promoting a system where parents choose schools’ (‘Bad grammar’, 17 September). Unfortunately, freedom from local authority control has been replaced with unprecedented central interference and control. For teachers, the burdens created by Ofsted inspections far outweigh those imposed by councils. In real terms, education spending has doubled since the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988, yet academic standards have at best stayed still. Wolf cites the success of a few academy chains, ignoring the indifferent performance of most. Her hero Michael Wilshaw has admitted that academies are

Digging deep into history

The year is 1963. A girl is walking around Stepney with a pack of index cards, visiting old residents in their dilapidated houses, drinking strong tea with tinned milk, listening to their stories of happy days past and looking at cracked walls and leaking roofs. As she promises them help on behalf of her employer, the Old People’s Welfare Association, redevelopment plans for the area are being drawn up with little regard for its inhabitants, many of whom don’t want to move. ‘There may be heartbreak in store for some,’ breezily remarks a magazine article. That girl was Gillian Tindall, and her interest in ‘the landscape of people’s lives’ has

Despite rumours to the contrary, the high-speed loco has left the drawing board

There’s a lot of negativity around HS2, and I sniff a Brexit connection. You might think Leave campaigners whose aim is to boost British self-belief would promote the idea that we have a talent for grands projets such as the Olympic Park and Crossrail, rather than a propensity to deliver half what’s promised at double the cost. But there’s also an overlap between Tory MPs opposed to the northbound high-speed rail link, usually because it bisects their constituencies, and Tory MPs opposed to the government on the EU referendum. So I suspect that’s where the trouble lies. The spin is that cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is reviewing the project

Portrait of the week | 17 March 2016

Home In the Budget, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, kept talking of the ‘next generation’. He outlined cuts of £3.5 billion in public spending by 2020, to be ‘on course’ to balance the books. Personal allowances edged up for lower taxpayers, with the higher-rate threshold rising to £45,000. A ‘lifetime Isa’ for under-40s would be introduced. Corporation tax would go down to 17 per cent by 2020. Small-business rate relief was raised: a ‘hairdresser in Leeds’ would pay none. Fuel, beer, cider and whisky duty would be frozen. To turn all state schools into academies (removing local authorities from education), he earmarked £1.5 billion. He gave the go-ahead

Portrait of the week | 25 February 2016

Home David Cameron, having continued talks through the night in Brussels, announced that he had achieved a ‘special status’ for Britain in the European Union and would call a referendum on it for 23 June. One concession he had wrung was that, for seven years, Britain could decide to limit in-work benefits for EU migrants during their first four years in Britain. ‘I do not love Brussels; I love Britain,’ he said. The cabinet met next morning, and six members left by a back door to promote their support for the campaign to leave. The biggest beast among them was Michael Gove, and the others were Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith,

The London mayoral election will be a battle between whatsisface and whatsisname

London, 2012. It’s Olympic year, and east London is sprouting anew, and our city feels like the capital of the world. And on this mighty, epoch-making canvas, two political heavyweights do battle. In the blue corner, Boris Johnson, the incumbent, and perhaps the most recognisable politician in the land. In the red, Ken Livingstone, his predecessor and opposite in almost every way, except for the reputation for shagging. He’s a little tarnished by now, Ken, true, a little old, a little Jew-hatey and yesterday-ish, but he still stands for something that Boris does not. His is a fiercely multicultural London, a little dirty, perhaps, but vibrant and arty, too; a

Autumn Statement and Spending Review 2015: what to expect

George Osborne will take to the Dispatch Box at 12:30pm today to deliver this year’s Autumn Statement — a mini-budget on the Treasury’s latest plans for spending and taxation. The Chancellor will also announce the results of the Spending Review, which will outline the cuts to departmental expenditure required to clear the deficit before 2020. Here’s what we already know about the Chancellor’s big announcements today. ‘The biggest housebuilding programme since the 1970s’: Today’s FT reports that housing will be a key component of the Autumn Statement, with the Chancellor promising to build 400,000 new homes in England and shifting public subsidies from renting to buying. After the debacle over cutting tax credits, Osborne will be

Jonathan Coe’s raucous social satire smoulders with anger behind the fun

When Rachel, one of the unreliable narrators of Number 11, wants to ‘go back to the very beginning’, she starts with the death of Dr David Kelly, the former United Nations weapons inspector, discovered dead in woodland on Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire on 18 July 2003, shortly after casting doubt on the government dossier that claimed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Rachel was ten at the time, staying with her grandparents and school friend Alison in the nearby village of Beverley. For the next ten years — during which she gets into Oxford from a state school, graduates with a 2:1 in English, and becomes a private tutor