Shadow transport secretary Sadiq Khan has claimed that the government is attempting to reduce the scope of Crossrail as talk of “contingency options” to cut costs on the £15.9bn project emerge.
Khan has spent the last month attempting to get confirmation from transport secretary Philip Hammond that the project will be delivered in full.
He has tabled written questions that have not been answered (News last week), and has now had a personal letter to Hammond only partially answered.
Khan’s letter asks two distinct questions. First, whether all proposed stations for the route will be built, and second, whether trains and platforms along the route will be constructed to “mainline” length as previously set out.
Hammond responded last week but did not answer the questions directly. He said “contingency options” could be looked at to cut costs. “We need to ensure that we keep available a range of contingency options for what we might need to do to reduce costs if necessary to protect the project as a whole,” he said.
He added that no formal decision had been made on the length of trains and platforms.
“The government needs to be a lot more open with London’s business community and the travelling public about its plans”
Khan told NCE: “Just a few weeks ago Philip Hammond claimed that he had no plans to reduce the scope of Crossrail − now it is clear that he is exploring ways to scale it back. The government needs to be a lot more open with London’s business community and the travelling public about its plans.
“If it’s considering big changes to the scheme, such as fewer stations, reduced capacity, or major delays in delivering key parts of the network, then we deserve to know about it so we can consider fully the impact these cuts will have on the economy and on jobs, and on the overall value of the project,” he said.
Fears have grown about the scope of the scheme following Hammond’s prolonged silence over the completion date of the Abbey Wood spur.
“We need to ensure that we keep available a range of contingency options for what we might need to do to reduce costs.”
Khan tabled a written question to Hammond over three weeks ago asking whether the planned completion date of the Abbey Wood spur, which travels from the Isle of Dogs via Woolwich, has changed. An answer has yet to be received.
Woolwich station was a late addition to the Crossrail line and was only added after developer Berkeley Homes agreed to part fund the project.
Negotiations with the developer, which was hit hard in the recession, have since stalled.
A Crossrail spokesman said that the project would still be delivered in full, and tunnelling for the Abbey Wood spur would begin at the end of 2011.
Despite this, an insider on the project has revealed that options are being explored to terminate the line short of Abbey Wood.
“If the line was to end at Custom House initially, it would be relatively easy to add the link to Abbey Wood at a later stage,” a source told NCE.