Many of these people will, it is hoped, be new to the industry and will use the project not just as employment but as the first step on a career in construction which could change the rest of their lives for the better. And for Crossrail executive chairman Douglas Oakervee, leaving this vital economic and social regenerative legacy, particularly in some of London’s poorest areas through which the railway passes, is a crucially important aspect of the project. Not least, explains Oakervee, as the UK heads towards recession and unemployment starts to rise. "There is an even greater need for Crossrail given the [economic] climate," he says.
"There will be more unemployed and even if they are coming from the building industry to go into tunnelling, they will need to be retrained." To this end he has been working with the industry over the last couple of years to establish a new Tunnelling Academy which he predicts will become the centrepiece of Crossrail’s employment legacy. Negotiations over location, partners and content are being finalised and it is hoped that by 2010 the academy will be ready to accept new recruits.
The primary focus, explains Oakervee, will be to give workers the basic grounding necessary to work underground rather than perhaps specialist skills such as operating a tunnel boring machine. "The training for these skills will be better handled as now by the manufacturers," he explains. "Initially we will be working with the British Tunnelling Society to award safety passports for the project and contractors will put their staff through the academy." However, Oakervee expects that the academy will also be on hand to provide specialist training where required to meet demand. "The area that we have big shortages in is sprayed concrete," he says. “Crossrail and its parent Transport for London will be working energetically to ensure that all those involved with skills and employment issues, including government at national and local levels, are closely engaged to ensure that we establish a fully trained workforce," he says.
The legacy of Crossrail in terms of employment is vital, he says. "Crossrail has an important role to play in supporting regeneration for the economy. Ensuring that jobs are made available for Londoners, and that Londoners have the skills required, is an important part of Crossrail’s approach to construction." Economic benefits Returns on Crossrail according to the current, conservative, Government test are a very healthy 3:1, according to Crossrail corporate affairs director Clinton Leeks.
At 2002 prices, which were the prices used when the Crossrail Bill went to the House of Commons in 2005, £10bn of investment in Crossrail would generate £36bn for the UK economy. That ratio was improved when the Crossrail team brought the 2002 price down to £8bn with some judicious value engineering. The benefit comes in two measurable ways, says Leeks: time saved travelling and job creation. "he biggest benefit comes when jobs are created in places where economic productivity is high, such as central business areas and financial districts,"he says.
Crossrail’s route through Canary Wharf, the City of London and the West End is almost perfect in terms of job creation it would seem. The total jobs created were put at 30,000 by Gordon Brown last month. What is not measured in the cost benefit calculation is the added value to the economy of having 14,000 people at work and paying taxes while they are building the railway.