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Crossrail gets back on track – but at what price?
13 December 2018
On the day this week that Crossrail should have been opening to passengers, the Mayor and government were instead confirming the financing package that will see Crossrail through to completion.
Transport for London (TfL) now estimates that an additional £1.3 billion to £1.7 million will be needed to complete the project. The Department for Transport (DfT) has agreed to provide a loan to the Greater London Authority for this amount, which the GLA intend to repay via the existing Business Rate Supplement and from the Mayoral Community Infrastructure Levy.
While privately expressing our deep frustration at the delay, our priority in discussions with the GLA, TfL and government over recent weeks has been to get the project back on track to completion. We therefore welcomed confirmation of this financing package, while stressing the need for improved governance. In recognition of the significant funding being provided by business we have received assurances that the business voice on Crossrail’s board will now be strengthened.
We are also continuing to seek clarity on a new timetable for opening Crossrail. The mood at TfL has clearly darkened in recent weeks, with speculation now rife that 2020 may be a more realistic opening date than 2019. Further details on what went wrong and the future timetable may yet emerge from next Friday’s Assembly Transport Committee hearing with the Mayor, Mike Brown and Sir Terry Morgan. Get there early and don’t forget your popcorn.
Transport upgrades on hold
Regardless of the ongoing political squabble about who knew what and when, the impacts of delays on TfL’s wider programme are now becoming clear. TfL’s business plan, also published this week, shows the impact that a perfect storm of government cuts, reduced farebox income and Crossrail delays is having. The Piccadilly line signalling upgrade remains on hold, key station improvements at Holborn and Camden Town have been delayed, and all non-safety critical renewals have been pared back. TfL will need to continue to become more efficient and commercial, and to explore additional funding sources – beyond relying solely on business. Nonetheless, we must all recognise that the path for vital new projects such as Crossrail 2 just became a bit steeper.
All of this makes the government spending review anticipated next year an even more important event for London First. The government’s independent expert advisers at the National Infrastructure Commission this summer published a long-term plan for the country that included vital national projects, including Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We intend to build on our links with regional and national business groups to encourage government to commit to this plan, and look forward to working with our members to make the case for continued investment in transport for the long-term.
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