Hot, sweaty and claustrophobic - commuters travelling to London's Canary Wharf at rush hour have a lot to endure to arrive at what is Britain's smartest and most modern office development.
The Tube and light railway lines are already packed, sometimes unreliable, but are the only viable public transport route into the glittery Docklands scheme. The bad news for the 41,000 people who work at Canary Wharf is that things are going to get worse, which could threaten the status of what is rapidly becoming Britain's new financial centre.
Canary Wharf is only half finished. New towers are springing up every month as tenants turn their backs on the crowded City and sign up for new towers in east London.
Some 14,500 extra workers will relocate to the development next year when HSBC and Citigroup move into their new skyscrapers, which are almost completed. But figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday show that the number of extra workers in the office blocks could soon outstrip the present capacity of the Jubilee Line Underground and the Docklands Light Railway (see below).
Jim Steer, managing director of transport consultant Steer Davies Gleeve, which has worked on a number of projects for Canary Wharf, says: "In the short term, things will be OK. But in the long term the area is not going to cope without any new transport facilities. One day someone will not get a development permit because of the transport situation."
Transport, which is rapidly becoming the chink in Canary Wharf's shiny armour, could put off potential tenants. Alan Patterson, property analyst at HSBC, says: "At the moment, there is not a big problem. But at some point the crunch will come. Potential occupiers may say `no thanks' to Canary Wharf even at cheaper rents."
Canary Wharf, run by the respected George Iacobescu, is aware of its problems. It has launched legal action against London Underground, which the developer claims has failed to deliver the promised number of trains in the Jubilee Line. It is also lobbying the Government to extend the proposed CrossRail line - that will run from west to east London - to Canary Wharf. And it is banking on the DLR, run by Serco, significantly increasing its number of trains.
It is far from certain that these measures to enhance capacity will come off. So just how close is Canary Wharf to transport chaos? Robert John is the Canary Wharf executive charged with sorting out transport at the FTSE 100 property company. He comes with pedigree, having originally proposed the Jubilee Line extension to the east. "I am probably the least concerned person in the world," he says confidently. "The issue sometimes flares up and people say, `oh my God, there is nothing in the pipeline'. But each time we have delivered what we promised."
He has two arguments as to why Canary Wharf will escape any major transport problems. First, he believes that there is a sufficient political imperative - not least from Ken Livingstone, an unlikely ally for Canary Wharf's capitalists - to increase the number of trains on the Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf. "The mayor's office knows that it needs to meet the requirements of major financial services tenants that are critical to London's well- being." He also argues that on London Underground's list of priorities, fixing the Jubilee Line is high up because of the relative small cost to large- benefit ratio.
His second argument is based on demographics. More people, he says, are travelling to Canary Wharf from east London. …