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Fears for Crossrail 2 allayed after Budget neglect

Crossrail 2 visualisation of shaft at Mile End

Concerns that Crossrail 2 may not go ahead after the government failed to mention it in its Spring Budget this week have been played down by a leading business figure.

London First executive director policy David Leam told New Civil Engineer that although the government failed to include the massive proposed infrastructure project in its spring Budget, this did not mean it was getting cold feet about the megaproject.

The strategic outline business case for the new line was submitted by Transport for London (TfL) to the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday this week.

“For me, I wasn’t disappointed that it wasn’t in the Budget as I was never expecting it to be in there in the first place,” said Leam. “It wasn’t the moment when government were going to be making the decision, so I don’t have a sense of a missed opportunity there.”

He said that the timetables for the Budget and a review of the business case for the project were never aligned and so it was unlikely to have been incorporated in the Budget.

Although TfL’s latest business case is not being made public yet, it said that it builds on the previous business case which was published in January 2016.

“The strategic outline business case submitted to the Department for Transport builds on the 2015 business case and outlines how Crossrail 2 will provide vital additional public transport, boosting housing and jobs across the South East region,” said TfL managing director for Crossrail 2 Michèle Dix. ”It will provide significant economic benefits right across the country – adding up to £150bn to GDP. It also responds to the March 2016 recommendations of the National Infrastructure Commission, endorsed by the Department of Transport, by cutting project costs and setting out more detailed plans for funding and for housing delivery.”

The London Assembly has urged the government to get on with the job. Assembly member Florence Eshalomi, who seconded a motion asking the government to approve TfL’s business case without delay, said: “Given that High Speed 2 will put even more pressure on the network, particularly at Euston where the line terminates, it is vital that the secretary of state for transport approves the Crossrail 2 scheme without delay.”

Leam said that he now hoped the government would review the strategic case over the next two months and then show tangible signs of advancing the project.

“The crucial thing is what happens next,” he said. “The business case is in and the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Treasury are now reviewing it. Now, we have a window over the next couple of months where they are assessing it and coming to a collective government view as to what happens next.”

He said as a conclusion to the review, the government should aim to go ahead with consultations over local issues such as the position of the stations, branch lines and phasing, over the summer.

“I’d expect to see some puff of smoke from government in May to June of this year ideally,” said Leam. “That’s not a final green light or go ahead, that’s a keep going as planned.

“Remember where we are now. It’s only a year since the previous chancellor took the seat of the National Infrastructure Commission’s report on Crossrail 2 and endorsed that. The previous chancellor was clear that they should continue for a Hybrid Bill in 2019.

“That is the current plan, and what is really being asked of government is, are they prepared to stick to that plan?”

Crossrail 2 will link the south coast with Hertfordshire and has been labelled as not just a London project, but a regional project with benefits extending to the rest of the UK.

“It’s a regional scheme not just a London scheme. The benefits here are right from the south coast to the Wash. The benefits would be national as well. Over 60% of TfL’s procurement spend goes out the capital,” said Leam.

The line will run from Epsom in Surrey in the south to Broxbourne in Hertfordshire in the north with spurs off to Shepperton and Chessington South in the south west, and New Southgate in the north west.

The line will increase capacity into London by 10% with the development opportunity along the route pitched at 200,000 new homes, 60,000 new jobs during construction and 200,000 new jobs once complete.

Capturing this value is something Leam says is essential in getting the business case passed.

“We have to be canny about how you capture that value and we should be creative and ambitious about how we capture the value for Crossrail 2,” said Leam. “There is opportunity in London and the south east to generate and thus capture additional value which can help pay for it.”

“Not only are we completely behind the scheme, but as with Crossrail 1, we are prepared to work with the government, the mayor and TfL to put in place a viable funding package.”

Dix added: “Both the prime minister and the transport secretary have shown their support for Crossrail 2 and have committed £80M to the development of the scheme‎. Following their request for an updated business case and robust funding plan for the scheme, we have now submitted this to the Department for Transport. We need to await the government’s approval of the business case before we proceed with further project design. Subject to approval, a formal public consultation on revised proposals will take place later this year.”

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