Conservative support for London’s £15.9bn Crossrail scheme was thrown into doubt this week after London minister Justine Greening admitted that the party could not guarantee its future.
Greening’s comments in a live radio debate on priorities for London came days after the party’s election manifesto reiterated its support of the scheme.
“I can’t give a guarantee that it (Crossrail) will continue,” said Greening, who is MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields.
She said that the party could not give “a line by line budget on projects across government, including Crossrail”.
The timing of her comments will be seen by many as critical.
London mayor Boris Johnson told NCE last year that the mega project must be given firm government support “immediately” after a General Election to safeguard its future.
“I will be looking for assurances from the government of its guarantees [that Crossrail will go ahead] pretty well immediately [after the General Election],” he said.
Supporters of the scheme immediately reacted angrily. The Unite union said that suggestions that the project - which is expected to empoy 14,000 staff at its peak - could be scrapped was “extremely concerning”.
“To scrap a project this large would have a major recessionary impact, said Unite regional secretary Steve Hart. “Not only does this show a worrying lack of knowledge about the needs of London, the Tories are also showing their true face as job slashers.”
The Campaign for Better Transport called on the Conservatives to clarify their position.
Meanwhile Labour reiterated its support for the scheme in its “Plan for Growth” economic statement that claims a new Labour government would “transform” Britain’s infrastructure.
The plan “reaffirms” Labour’s “total commitment to the delivery of Crossrail, continuing apace in the next Parliament under a Labour Government”.