Those who think that too much infrastructure money is spent on rail projects, and that too much of that is spent in London, had better look away now. Because last week London business leaders heard the compelling case for Crossrail 2 - the proposed south west to north east rail route under central London.
The case is being made by business lobby group London First, which has spent the last year examining options for the route.
Last week, London First published a report on Crossrail 2 put together by its Crossrail 2 task force, which was chaired by former transport secretary Lord Adonis and whose members include representatives of Transport for London.
“Crossrail 2 is needed regardless of High Speed 2. All it does is make the case more compelling”
It has now calculated that the scheme can be built for £12bn. But the main aim of last week’s launch was to sustain the momentum for strategic cross London railway lines built up by the start of work on Crossrail.
“The campaign for Crossrail took 17 years,” said London First chief executive Jo Valentine.
“This vividly shows the need to think ahead.”
London First’s Crossrail 2 task force recommends that the project be a suburban line, branching off the south west main line at Wimbledon and heading into a 24km long tunnel running beneath central London and heading north east to Angel Islington where it splits.
There it will split, with one branch heading to Alexandra Palace and the other to Hackney where it will emerge from tunnel to join the Greater Anglia line at Tottenham Hale.
The underground central London section broadly follows the route of the proposed, built Chelsea to Hackney line, which has been safeguarded from development since 1991.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is due to review the route this year and London First’s report aims to help shape the debate.
London mayor Boris Johnson has already endorsed it as the document that Transport for London should use when it strategically consults on a new safeguarded south west to north east route ahead of the DfT review.
A major change to the existing safeguarded route, recommended in the report, is to include a super station at Euston. This is in anticipation of the looming capacity crunch certain to be exacerbated by the planned High Speed 2 (HS2) terminus.
“But Crossrail 2 is needed regardless of HS2,” stressed Adonis. “All it does is make the case more compelling.”
Adonis has already made clear that without extra capacity, arriving HS2 passengers will be forced to wait up to 30 minutes to get onto the Tube at Euston station by 2032, wiping out the time-saving benefits of HS2 (NCE 24 May 2012).
Crossrail 2 will relieve another major capacity crunch, this time at a new interchange at Clapham Junction, where mainline services into Waterloo and Victoria intersect. The section of the south west railway line between Wimbledon and Clapham Junction is particularly congested. Network Rail’s current route utilisation strategy proposes adding a fifth track to the existing four tracks between Surbiton and Clapham Junction. With Crossrail 2 this work would only be required as far as Wimbledon.
North of the combined Euston super station the route follows the route of the proposed Chelsea Hackney line, then connects with the Great Anglia route.
The northern section is more focused on regeneration as opposed to relieving capacity, says Adonis.
The London First task force has ruled out a direct connection to the East Coast Main Line at Alexandra Palace after carrying out a cost benefit analysis. A link to the Great Anglian line at Tottenham Hale was ruled in, however.
This would opens the door for a direct connection to Stansted - one of the three proposed locations for an aviation hub for south east England cited by Johnson.
Johnson gave enthusiastic backing to Crossrail 2 at the launch, and spoke of his determination to ensure that the same backing that prevented Crossrail being cancelled in the newly formed Coalition government’s 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review be put in place for Crossrail 2.
“Government ministers in 2010 were prepared to stop it [Crossrail],” said Johnson.
It is thought that the project was kept alive by the fact funding streams like the Crossrail levy on businesses had already begun to feed cash into the project.
At the same time, money had already been spent on the tender processes, the privately funded Canary Wharf station and advance works.
Funding Crossrail 2 will be difficult, particularly as the pencilled in construction date of 2025 will be the same time as HS2 phase 2 is due to begin.
So extending the Crossrail business rate to cover Crossrail 2 is one option according Adonis.
“All streams of funding should be looked at,” Adonis told NCE.
Adonis noted that the big spend on London’s north-south Thameslink upgrade will have ended by the mid-2020s and that scheduled improvements, including the fivetracking between Surbiton and Clapham Junction will cost £6bn anyway.
“Do you want to carry on with patch and mend for very little improvement?” asked Adonis “Or for a small incremental cost at £6bn do you want Crossrail 2, for which you get transformational change?”
It’s a good question, and one the government will be asked to answer soon.