TfL must plug £2.73m Croxley link shortfall after council offers £1 wasteland

Transport for London (TfL) will have to find £2.73m of unbudgeted funding before it can start works on the delayed Croxley rail link, after Hertfordshire County Council tried paying part of its share with wasteland valued at £1.

The Metropolitan Line Extension was formally initiated in late 2011, when the Department for Transport (DfT) approved a £76.2m contribution towards the £116m scheme. But since then, costs have risen and timescales have lengthened, and this year it was confirmed that TfL was to take the project over.

The link, which will extend the Metropolitan Line to Watford Junction via Watford High Street, was originally meant to be complete by May 2016. It would be funded by the county council, both in terms of predicted price and cost escalation risks.

Hertfordshire was also meant to lead the overall delivery of the extension, with London Underground (LU) only tasked with delivering certain specific elements – such as railway systems and design assurance – without any direct TfL financial contribution.

Since then, and from 2013 in particular, the county council began reporting soaring costs and missed milestones and, in mid-2014, the department started considering alternative options to plug the funding gap. At that point, LU was to take over overall responsibility for the programme’s delivery.

In January this year, TfL commissioned AECOM to look into the status of the project, at which point its costs had more than doubled to £284.4m. Shortly after, on 26 March, TfL took over responsibilities over civil engineering works, systems and rolling stock procurement.

It was meant to contribute £46.5m to the overall cost, including any extra cost risk. Another £70.7m would be provided in DfT grants, with Hertfordshire CC and Watford Borough Council stepping in with £40.23m.

But when the project was due to be formally transferred from the council to LU in September, Hertfordshire claimed £2.73m of its overall share would be delivered in the form of two parcels of land instead of cash.

One of these parcels, which the council valued at £1.8m, was a disused railway site it bought from Network Rail for £1. The other was a plot earmarked for use as a station car park, given a notional value of £900,000, which “will not transfer to TfL at any point”.

TfL will now have to look into its finances to locate the £2.73m gap left in the much-delayed project in order to start works next year – in addition to the contribution it had already committed to make. 

The transfer date of the programme, hoped for in September, was brought to the table in a TfL board meeting this week (4 November), at which board members asked for extra assurances on the finances.

TfL board member Peter Anderson, managing director of finance at Canary Wharf Group plc, who chairs TfL's finance and policy committee, said: “We thought we were getting a contribution which we now find is in land, and it’s in land that we’re not even getting.”

He said failing to do adequate engineering and procurement studies ahead of major projects opened TfL up to financial risks later, and other board members raised concerns about the prospects of the costs rising further. 

Mayor of London Boris Johnson admitted that his actions in signing off funding were “seemingly irrational”, but indicated they were part of a wider negotiation strategy with the Department for Transport and Treasury in this pre-Comprehensive Spending Review period. 

He said: “I’m picking up [from the board] a strong view that we could strike a harder bargain with government and DfT. That is something we will try to do, but there is a very considerable threat to TfL’s very large capital funding package, and we have to make sure we sometimes play ball on some things and don’t always behave like a needy infant.”

The board decided to delegate the issue to the upcoming finance and policy committee meeting to examine in greater detail. That committee is due to give the green light to infrastructure procurement, rolling stock purchases and systems works in the New Year.

The board papers also noted that TfL may also bring in extra external programme delivery expertise from outside organisations, via the Joint Delivery Partner Initiative, created to help TfL manage its raft of major project work at the moment.  The board was asked to "approve the entering into of such agreements with third parties as may also be necessary or desirable to implement the transfer and facilitate delivery".

The extension delivery has now been pushed to 2020-21, five years after the original deadline.

CRL Scheme Outline Final V2 R 697x492Click on the image to enlarge it.

The scope of the Croxley rail link scheme comprises two new junctions: one north of Croxley Metropolitan Line station and a second linking the Croxley rail link into the existing Network Rail track south of Watford High Street station.

From the Croxley junction, the route traverses roads and a canal via a new viaduct leading to the first new Croxley rail link station at Ascot road (to be known as Cassiobridge) and a second new station at Watford Vicarage Road.

The signalling will be based on LU legacy technology, while route paths on the Network Rail sections will rely on modified NR signalling.

Once complete, the intention is to run six Metropolitan trains per hour in the peak to Watford Junction and four trains per hour in the off-peak. The service will share two stations, Watford High Street and Watford Junction, with London Overground and London Midland services.


Manek Dubash   06/11/2015 at 12:46

Frankly, if it were my decision I'd scrap the plan. Why are councils so incompetent when it comes to organising large projects?

Andrew Gwilt   06/11/2015 at 13:06

When the new Croxley Rail Link extension to Watford Junction is completed along with Cassiobridge and Watford Vicarage Road, the current Metropolitan Line towards Watford will be closed off and it be used as a siding with Watford station to be permanently closed from the public and could turn into shops and apartment flats once the new rail link is opened.

Eddie Knorn   06/11/2015 at 13:17

As a former local resident, I confirm that the description of Watford as a wasteland worth £1 is not far off the mark.

Felix Schmid   06/11/2015 at 13:17

Maybe, Chiltern Railways could be asked to develop the link as Evergreen X, at an affordable cost. They have demonstrated their skills several times by delivering to (low) budgets and on time!

Arun Sharma   06/11/2015 at 14:04

This works out as 30 times the cost per mile of the Borders railway!

Nickk   06/11/2015 at 14:48

Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill is desperate for the link to happen as it will provide "a good public transport service to Watford Hospital" and she can justify raiding most of the campus parking space for the building of (overall) 750 new accomodations... As though medical shift staff and wheelchair patients will want to travel by train...

Nigel   06/11/2015 at 16:35

As a Herts council tax payer I want to know why this scheme ever saw the light of day, it's hard see why £285m could not have been invested more wisely. And why build the Vicarage Road station next to a notorious humpback bridge already the site of serious road accidents. There is no space for bus or car connections. into the new station - it all smacks of bad planning on Hert's CC part.

Anonymous Widower   06/11/2015 at 17:25

I have feeling that the original project specification was very limited and it could have been much better, with links to Chiltern in the West. I do wonder if TfL and Chiltern look at it and say to the local councillors. "You created this mess, so it's your problem!" I certainly would.

JMZ   06/11/2015 at 21:30

Croxley station, "gateway" to the new Croxley Rail Link, does not have step-free access (eg lifts) to the platforms. This means that many Croxley residents such as mothers with children or pushchairs, adults who are temporarily weak or unwell, disabled of all ages, and many elderly people who are all the most likely to be patients at Watford General Hospital, are precluded from using public transport to their local hospital. Shame on tfl.

Paul Coenraats   06/11/2015 at 23:22

I always think the expression referring to "escalation of costs" is partly made up of interested parties trying to make as much out of the situation as possible..........n'est pas ?

Ross Humphries   07/11/2015 at 12:04

Where is this land that Herts CC tried to sell to TFL for £1? This project is called the Croxley Rail Link for one reason only. When it all goes wrong, Watford's mayor etc. can walk away without have dirtied they names too much. Where is David Gauke in all this? He is Financial Secretary to the Treasury and seems to have no interest into how his constituents taxes have been spent. All we want in Croxley is for the tube to be renamed to Croxley Green and to have step free access to the tube. What's a another million pounds in a process that is already spiralling out of control?

Hemel Bus User   09/11/2015 at 13:59

This is exactly what would be expected from the incompetent nincompoops in HCC Transport. In Hemel we had our bus services amended with no consultation by someone who had on their own admission never been to Hemel and road schemes implemented by someone who had not only never been to hemel but didn't even drive a car. HCC also want to turn the Abbey branch into a 'busway' despite the problems with the Cambridge and Luton variants, this link should be self financing with the sale of Watford Met for housing. Only thing that rings true is Watford being worth £1 - apologies to all from Watford!!

Dunnyrail   10/11/2015 at 07:34

This link should be a no brainer, it is mostly built on old Railway Land. Some being sold off for a ROAD LINK to an Industrial Estate at the Croxley end. I wonder what happened to tgat Money? So basically £280m for a Bridge (admittedly some of it new) and relay some Track and a Station or 3 to Modern Standards. At this Cost Accessibility at all Stations should have been included. One does wonder where the Money goes,mno doubt in Expensive Consultants Reports to satisfy 6 figure Executives Ego's. Dunnyrail

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