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Getting the Bill through

Getting Crossrail through Parliament and onto the construction starting blocks has, says Crossrail managing director Keith Berryman, 'been the highlight of my career'.

Which is a good thing, as it has occupied eight years of his life. His involvement started with the Strategic Rail Authority where he led the production of the London East- West study that revived the Crossrail scheme after the previous incarnation’s demise in the mid-1990s. He then became one of the key players within the Crossrail project, guiding the scheme through the critical Parliamentary process, particularly the select committees.

Being interrogated by an array of MPs and peers may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, (particularly anyone who has watched a select committee in full flow), but Berryman begs to differ. "It was really, really good fun," he says. "I found being in front of a select committee very exciting."

Indeed, there is genuine pleasure on his face and the occasional chuckle as he looks through reports of the committee conversations. "The shorthand writers told me I was the only person who smiled when I gave evidence. And even though I knew the project pretty thoroughly, the committee still came up with things to surprise me every now and then."

Berryman and the team at Crossrail had 579 petitions from people who were unhappy with the project to work their way through. Most were settled before the select committee heard them. But others had to be argued through.

Crossrail found itself committing to building a station box at Woolwich as a result and an extra entrance at Liverpool Street. "In an early version of the scheme, there had been a plan to carry freight on part of the eastern section of the route, which meant the shallow gradient needed to carry the trains under the river would have meant going very deep under Woolwich," he explains. "A station would have been 30m deep and very expensive but when the freight operation evaporated – largely because the Docklands Light Railway took over some of the existing track which connected to the tunnels – we could change the gradient and a station at Woolwich became feasible again."

Berryman’s role has now switched to acquiring land and property along the route and dealing with the over-site clients who are developing above the railway. "Despite all my years in engineering, I still get excited about new projects and they don’t get more exciting than, or as challenging as, Crossrail," says Berryman. "Crossrail opens up huge opportunities for the engineering profession and particularly for the younger generation of engineers who I am sure will share the same feeling of pride that I will have when the tunnelling machines enter the ground."

Getting Crossrail on track

2000 - Strategic Rail Authority produces London East-West study recommending revival of the Crossrail scheme and presents it to deputy prime minister John Prescott.

May 2001 -
Prescott tells SRA to go ahead in joint venture with Transport for London.

2002 -
New Crossrail team, largely seconded from Transport for London, produces first business plan with route from Maidenhead to Shenfield and a branch to Abbey Wood. Moderately developed design produced by Mott MacDonald and Scott Wilson.

- Transport secretary Alistair Darling orders a review of the scheme by Sir Adrian Montague.

2004 - Montague review generally favourable, Crossrail Hybrid Bill announced.

Feb 2005
- Hybrid Bill deposited with House of Commons.

July 2005
- Second reading of the Bill.

January 2006
- Select committee proceedings start; 579 petitions; later that year Strategic Rail Authority is abolished and Department for Transport takes over its share of the Crossrail role.

July 2007
- Commons select committee concludes.

October 2007 -
Hybrid Bill third reading debate.

January 2008
- Bill goes to the House of Lords and then Lords select committee.

22 July 2008
- Third reading in the Lords; Royal Assent; Crossrail Bill becomes the Crossrail Act.

24 July 2008 - CLRL appointed nominated undertaker for the Crossrail works.

End of 2008
- Crossrail becomes part of Transport for London.

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