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20.11.18

Crossrail and Crossrail 2: in the public eye

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 2018

Since the shock announcement of the delay to Crossrail in September, taxpayers and decision-makers alike have been anxious to find out the latest updates to the two projects. RTM’s Jack Donnelly headed to Whitehall to report on what their bosses have to say about the schemes.

Despite noting the “great frustration” of Londoners that the Elizabeth Line opening 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 on 11 October, 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” the Elizabeth Line 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 revealed that 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; in 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; Iʼve 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.”

He 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.

‘We must make it more affordable’

During the event, the managing director for Crossrail 2 also outlined the plans for cutting costs for the scheme, stating that TfL “needs to make it more affordable.”

Dr Michèle Dix, said she “wished it was cheaper,” but noted that the £30bn project will make inroads in dealing with growing demand around the city – particularly in areas from the north-east south-west corridor, and the surge in passengers to central London from the north when HS2 is fully up and running.

“We have all heard about Crossrail 1, it’s very sad, very disappointing, very frustrating, but we mustn’t lose focus of what we’re trying to achieve in London,” she said. “Crossrail 2 remains a crucial project within the mayor’s transport strategy. It’s got a powerful strategic case, it answers many of the questions that we have to address.

“Crossrail 2 is a £30bn scheme; I wish it was cheaper. We’re trying to make it cheaper, but it is a big scheme. It will add £150bn to the economy when it is built so it is worth doing. It’s all about developing a sustainable London; Crossrail 2 sits at the very heart of that strategy.”

The cost of Crossrail 2 will be under even greater scrutiny from the public and politicians alike following reports earlier this year that Crossrail has soared £600m over budget.

Dr Dix outlined a number of different ways Crossrail 2 could push down the massive figure facing Londoners for its operational start date in the early 2030s.

The first was value engineering: through lessons learnt from Crossrail 1, how can savings be identified in planning and building to make it more efficient, delivering planning exactly as intended?

Dr Dix also queried whether more money could be raised by “direct beneficiaries” of Crossrail 2. “We have outlined how London and developers and businesses can pay for it, but are there other beneficiaries of Crossrail?” asked the project boss. She noted that of the homes Crossrail 2 will benefit, 30% of them will be outside London, with a £60bn land value uplift that the project will deliver along the route.

Other sources of income include encouraging investment from the private sector to fund whole or significant parts of stations, so it is “beneficial overall for them to do so,” Dix added. She said all of these streams of funding will be considered in the 2019 Spending Review.

When asked by discussion chair Steven Hammond which route Dr Dix would personally take, she said she would raise taxes to fund the project.

Top image: Dominic Lipinski

 

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