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11.10.18

APPG chair: ‘I can wait a little bit longer’ to receive Crossrail benefits

Despite noting the “great frustration” of Londoners that the project has been delayed, the All-Party Parliamentary Crossrail Group chair has said he can “wait a little bit longer” before passengers receive benefits.

Speaking to a Crossrail-focused event in London today, Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South and chair of the APPG, claimed that he, like many other commuters, had frustrations following the announcement of the nine-month delay to the £15.4bn project in August.

Gapes argued, however, that he would “much rather” Crossrail be running a smooth operation as opposed to a rushed roll-out of the service which could potentially be marred by disruption.

Crossrail has been intensely scrutinised by the public, Parliament, and politicians alike over recent months; in July it was found that costs for the scheme had soared over budget by £600m. After the announcement of the setback last month, London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was not notified of the delay as soon as the information was known.

Gapes said: “Look, I’m an East London MP, and I have my frustrations too; my station at Ilford, Network Rail has let us know there has been a delay on the work there, and we also have of course experienced the great frustration that all of us have on the announcement of the Crossrail delay. [But] I would much rather Crossrail, when it comes in, to be running a smooth operation to Heathrow and around the region.

“We can all remember what happened with the Millennium Dome on opening night, and so there are reasons why you have got to get these things right; not just in terms of the safety of passengers and the functionality of the system, but reputationally it is very important that when this fantastic project starts it will be perceived — not just by Londoners, but by the whole world— as a great addition to our transport connectivity.”

Gapes has been on the All-Party Parliamentary Crossrail Group since it began in 1999, and has chaired the group since 2005.

“I have been to various places; I've seen the Canary Wharf drainage of the water out before the section was built,” he said. “I’ve been walking three times now through the site in Tottenham Court Road before the tracks were laid and before the station was fitted out; I have seen the boring of the tunnel and the completion of the tunnel boring in various places.

“And then having the depot in my constituency where the Crossrail drains are going to be maintained and cleaned, a £50m investment that brings in 90 permanent jobs relating to the rail and engineering industry.”

Gapes went on to add that the first question he ever asked in Parliament in 1992 was to the then transport minister Stephen Norris about Crossrail. “So I can wait a little bit longer before we have this benefit,” he concluded.

Last week Crossrail chair Sir Terry Morgan stepped down after project setbacks. Today a group of MPs and council leaders called for Crossrail to be expanded to Kent and connected to HS1.

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