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Crossrail faces push to cut costs or defer some work

London’s £15.9bn Crossrail scheme faces a renewed threat of cuts or delays after new transport secretary Philip Hammond challenged mayor Boris Johnson to prove that it is value for money.

Hammond told NCE that he was to meet with Johnson this week to discuss the future of the project. Crossrail is being jointly promoted by the Department for Transport and Transport for London, which Johnson heads.

“I’m meeting with the mayor to seek reassurance that, given the public spending constraints, Crossrail can be delivered in a cost effective way,” Hammond said.

Reducing the number of stations or delaying their construction are options believed to be under consideration.

Hammond said he wanted Johnson to explain what efforts had been made to keep costs down.

“I’ll be looking at whether all value engineering options have been exhausted,” he said.

“Although I’m sure the mayor has ensured that there is value engineering being done,” he added.

Hammond spoke to NCE after unveiling a new platform for Network Rail at London’s Kings Cross station.

Little reassurance

His comments provided little reassurance to those wanting clarity on the future of the scheme following publication of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition document last week.

“I’ll be looking at whether all value engineering options have been exhausted”

Philip Hammond

Crossrail is mentioned only as having the coalition government’s “support”. Three words in the 16,012 word document are devoted to the £15.9bn scheme.

The document also makes clear that cutting debt is a higher priority than new build.

“The deficit reduction programme takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement, and the speed of implementation of any measures that have a cost to the public finances will depend on decisions to be made in the Comprehensive Spending Review,” it says. The government is due to publish its Comprhensive Spending Review in the autumn.

Change of plan

The document also warns that high speed rail plans will have to be “phased” because of the “financial constraints”.

The plan now is to build the Conservatives’ version of Arup’s Heathrow hub, with construction first focused on the London to Birmingham route before second and third phases continue it to Manchester and Leeds.

This is a departure from the Conservative plan published before the election which involved building a line from London to Leeds via Birmingham and Manchester in a single phase. At the time shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers criticised Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis for lacking ambition by focusing only on the route to the West Midlands in the first stage.

Hammond defended the new plan stating that he was confident that construction would begin in 2015 and that the inclusion of the Heathrow hub was vital because of the coalition’s intention to scrap a third runway at the airport.

Planning shake-up

Coalition ministers last week confirmed their intention rip up the UK’s planning system and axe the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The reforms will end regional spatial strategies, regional assemblies and regional development agencies.

All planning and policy decisions would be pushed down to local authorities.

“We will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups,” says the coalition document.

It also pledges to create directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities.

There is also a commitment to an Open Source planning system. Open Source takes its name from a computer concept where IT firms allow users to develop and modify their software.

The coaltion’s plan - a key plank of the Tories’ election manifesto - would aim to replicate this by allowing individuals to have more say in local planning.

A decentralisation and localism Bill will push the proposal through.

Readers' comments (7)

  • If the Government stopped paying benefits to people who have never worked or never tried hard enough to find a job would will have enough money go ahead with all the planned infrastructure projects.

    This would make more sense and value for money!!!!!

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  • Cutting crossrail will benefit no-one; it needs to be done. All the Tories are doing now is putting London's archaic infrastructure more years behind the rest of the world. Get Lord Adonic back, I had a lot of faith in him.

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  • Putting cost against value for every project when this involve publics money is a good things, but stopping completely building crossrail will be a mistake, especially predictions for passengers grow is certain. But considering the actual financial situation it will be wise to re-scope crossrail by identifying short term goals and long term demands as far as the equation ( cost < value) satisfy long term benefits, but if the opposite occurs then there is no benefit from the project at all. As an example if on short terms the west section (Stockeley junction to maidenhead and south east spur) are scraped and the Heathrow express route is used to Royal Oak portal a question will rise then what would be the impact on long term value?

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  • London's 'Archaic' infrastructure?

    London has enjoyed and continues to enjoy massive investment at a time when the rest of the UK has been left to rot. In case anyone has forgotton, we are in the middle of the worst recession for 60 years, and in my opinion London should not be exempt from the cuts that have already befallen the rest of the country. We as taxpayers are forced to 'invest' in something which will not benefit us in our daily lives, while the rest of the country is grinding to a halt.

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  • gordon s crighton

    Hammond is correct to challenge Boris to prove that Crossrail is value for money,
    Value engineering used to part of good design.However since it is now considered a seperate excerise I suggest it starts with the top management layer by reviewing the Clients Project (Programme) Management structure and that of his Contractors and Consultants. I am sure he will find duplication and redundancies.
    I read the other day that the Clients PM team for the Olympics had over 1000 staff !
    For a number of years now,particularly within the construction industry, there has been a continual growth of " Project Management (Program Management) oganisations layered one on top of the other.
    Having managed major international projects for over 50 years I have seen "Project Management" organsations and layers grow at an alarming rate generating many new splinter professions.
    If mangement structures continue to expand we are heading for the" inverted triangle" management organisation with one fellow at the bottom of the triangle with his pick and shovel trying to build the work !
    Gordon Crighton FREng

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  • According to the BBC's story today (regarding the review into new train carriages) passenger growth may not be at the level predicted, due to the recession. Surely then, this deflates the case for Crossrail?

    I also agree with Jeremy Pugh - £16bn for transport which will benefit predominately people travelling east-west in the south-east of England isn't much use to the rest of travellers in the UK.

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  • Chris O'Hanlon

    According to Jerremy Pugh and "n/a" (whoever n/a is!) why should Londoners get government money for Crossrail which many people won't benefit from. Point understood, however many Londeners and people in the southeast do not use the M6, or M91 or for that matter the Forth or Severn road bridges. Does that mean that they should not have been funded with public money? Can we please get away from from the "I won't use it why should my taxes pay for it every time the issue of public funding is discussed. By the way, my pension is taxed in the UK, but I now live in Finland, so I could logically argue against any public expenditure in the UK, but I don't!

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