I assume you know something of the geography of London. If not, please refer to the London core book, at http://tekeli.li/fakers_guide/london_core.html.
I ran Dark Conspiracy about 15 years ahead of the real world date, so this file was written to describe London in 2019.
All the space inside the M25 motorway is now considered a built-up area. The only "countryside" is the occasional private parkland.
The City of London has spread southeast, and Docklands has spread northwest, until they met in the middle (somewhere around Wapping). From the City down southeastwards in a diagonal corridor is a checkpoint-controlled zone (mostly just called "the zone"); residents and those with employment in the zone are issued permanent passes, while all others must be vouched for on every entry by a permanent pass-holder.
The checkpoint system was planned to be one of the flagships of Tojicorp's live face-recognition technology; rather than having gates, a network of security cameras would track everyone within the enclave and alert security forces to any violations. Unfortunately, it didn't work; as a result, the City of London Police (rather than Tojicorp's External Security Division) is the primary body in charge of enclave security. (The force is largely funded by corporations, but at least in theory is independent of corporate influence.)
There are pedestrian and vehicle checkpoints on all major roads leading into or out of the zone. Minor roads have been blocked with permanent anti-vehicle obstacles and walls which, while climbable, are something of a challenge to most people. Boundary roads themselves are outside the zone proper, but patrolled by the City of London Police.
In practice it's entirely possible to get into the zone on foot, and (if one doesn't attract attention) wander around it for some time. It is not by any means a walled area; but the City of London Police is not a force known for its tolerance or sense of humour, and any large-scale or blatant intrusion will bring a rapid and unfriendly response.
Someone caught in the zone without a pass will be arrested, and questioned for a variable amount of time (usually several hours). The well-off will be let go with a caution for a first offence; other possibilities include fines and (for persistent offenders) permanent banning orders, violation of which will lead to prison time.
Specifically, the boundary runs:
- from Blackfriars Bridge up Farringdon Road to the Vine Street (railway) Bridge;
- along Clerkenwell Road and Old Street to Old Street Station;
- Along Old Street, Great Eastern Street and Commercial Street to Aldgate;
- Along Commercial Road to the Blackwall Tunnel approach (A102);
- Down the River Lee (or Lea) to the Thames;
- Back along the river Thames (northern bank), enclosing the Isle of Dogs, to Blackfriars Bridge.
See here for the approximate boundaries of the Zone on Google Maps (or use the KML file in Google Earth).
The old tourist area of London has declined severely with the effective demise of international tourism. The more expensive shops and businesses have moved east into the zone; what's left is about 50% vacant properties, with the rest being cheap music and clothes shops and the odd cinema.
Chinatown has held together fairly well, but every year it seems more isolated. As property nearby becomes cheaper, "Chinatown" is expanding to include Leicester Square and parts of Soho. Rumours persist of Triad gang activity, but any evidence of this is not visible to the casual visitor.
You don't go south of the River without protection. Express trains to expensive suburbs are safe enough, but they don't stop in anything you could call South London.
Still running, though very irregularly, and with service highly variable depending on the part of London you're in. Typically, expect to wait around half an hour for a train, and fend off beggars, muggers or both.
4.1.2. Docklands Light Railway
Within the City-Docklands zone, the DLR has been converted to magnetic levitation and provides a clean, quiet, fast and smooth service throughout the area. The lines have been cut and new termini built at All Saints, Blackwall and Island Gardens (in the latter case the old terminus was reopened); the old railway tracks remain beyond these points (on the Stratford, Beckton and Lewisham branches respectively) but are not in use for passenger service.
The stories have come true. Get into a minicab and you're not guaranteed to arrive with body, mind or wallet intact... or at least, that's what the press would have you believe. In reality, minicabs are about as safe as any other form of transport; but the taxi-drivers still hate them.
It is still possible to operate a private car in London - with the general decline of the city, traffic has dropped substantially, and the city centre toll has been abandoned. However, fuel has become even more expensive, around £10 per (British) gallon - or £4 for engine-grade alcohol, which is becoming increasingly popular for smaller vehicles.
There are checkpoints at all the intersections of major roads with the M25. Cars with electronic tags (about 90% of the traffic) will generally not be stopped; others will be held up for about five minutes for ID checks. There is no requirement for passes; this is supposedly a simple extension of surveillance to try to catch criminals fleeing or entering London.
Abandoned and falling into decrepitude. Anyone coming into London by helicopter has a private landing pad available and therefore no need of this facility. Chunks of concrete occasionally fall into the river below.
The runway has been significantly extended to the east (demolishing quite a lot of houses in the process), and the airport can now take most commercial aircraft. City has become the main fixed-wing aircraft point of entry to London for the few aircraft still flying - people who can afford them usually want immediate access to the City-Docklands enclave. VTOL and private aircraft are also now allowed here, with the suitable (expensive) permits - but the remnants of safety rules require that they have at least two engines, and be able to ditch safely in the river rather than into buildings with only one of them operable.
The airports' operating companies are guaranteed government bail-outs when times get really bad. They have. The airports are still in occasional use, mostly for airships and fixed-wing air taxi services rather than for larger aircraft, and the amount of money available to businesses there has declined in accordance; so rather than McDonald's, you'll now see Ron and Ethel's Snack Bar.
Several airports no longer use all their available space. Large parts of the hangar and maintenance areas have been abandoned (particularly Heathrow's terminal 4 and south parking, which were always separate from the rest of the airport) and are occupied by squatters.
The smaller airfields have also shrunk, but as technological advances trickle down some people still find ways to fly. Whether it's motorgliders, hot air balloons or miniature zeppelins, most small fields will see ten or twenty people in as many different sorts of contraption taking to the air. It's not at all safe - deaths are not uncommon, even with the parachutes that most participants wear. But for some people that doesn't matter.
Biggin Hill has been built over and is now cheap housing, with nostalgic names - Hawker Cottages, Bombardier Street, and so on.
While the Met remains unarmed as a matter of course, it has become much easier to gain authorisation for carrying and use of firearms.
"Did you hear Pete tried to transfer to City?"
"No, what happened?"
"They turned him down. Soul too firmly attached."
The City of London Police has become the only British force to go armed as a matter of routine. Even this was a significant step, requiring a great deal of extra training, but paranoia and fear finally tipped the balance.
The City force is very well-funded and well-equipped. It's definitely the force to try to get into if you're a young and ambitious copper who doesn't mind occasionally doing things that might irk his conscience a bit.