Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Crossrail 2?

L ondon’s transport system just keeps getting busier. Around 1.37bn passengers travel in and out of the capital’s stations every year, journeying from their homes to shops, workplaces and to visit the sights.

Next year’s arrival of Crossrail, or the Elizabeth Line, will take some of the strain, but more capacity will be needed soon  - writes

Waiting in the wings, Crossrail 2 could arrive some time around 2030. Yet recently plans for Crossrail 2 have begun to look shaky, raising fears of a transport crunch in the capital.

Read also the schedule of the movies and performances in London.

Formerly a key part of infrastructure and productivity strategies, the project now appears to be on the back burner as Brexit and political instability dominate.

There was no mention of Crossrail 2 in the recent Queen’s Speech. Nor was it in the most recent Conservative manifesto. But what does it mean for the UK if it never breaks ground?

Next steps

The idea for Crossrail 2 dates back to the 1970s, but the project only really got moving four years ago. Then-chancellor George Osborne announced the Government would “look at the case for” a second cross-London line in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Running from Wimbledon in the south west of London to Tottenham Hale in the north east, the line would include links with major infrastructure hubs including Clapham Junction, Victoria and Euston.

The case for the line had been well rehearsed. A task force of London business leaders, headed by Lord Andrew Adonis, found that even with the major improvement and expansion programmes that are already planned or under way, overcrowding on the majority of London’s rail and tube network will increase beyond acceptable levels by the late 2020s.

On some parts of the network, demand will be such that the system will be unable to meet demand for large parts of the travelling day, it found.

“The south west of London and beyond and the north east of London and beyond: that’s where the problems are going to be in 10 years’ time,” explains Michèle Dix, managing director of Crossrail 2.

She is keen to stress that the benefits of putting the new line in are not just for the capital. “It’s a south east scheme of national importance,” she says.

Supporters of the scheme say it will deliver more than extra capacity.

A recent report from the Westminster Property Association, whose members own huge amounts of office and retail buildings along the length of the line, suggested that it would be a “catalyst for growth”, stimulating the building of around 200,000 new homes, as well as jobs and other development along the route.

The group called on the Government to take into account increases in activity in a wider London area that the project could bring about, not just changes around stations, when considering development policies.

“Crossrail 2 is a one-off opportunity to address some of the issues which have held back economic growth within London and further afield, improving the quality of life across the country as a whole,” the Westminster Property Association says.

But none of this can happen unless the line gets funding, and no one is entirely sure whether that is going to happen.

Those towns and villages outside of London which will benefit from the line need to be putting their hands in their pocketsJohn Walker, Westminster City Council

 The Crossrail 2 team submitted its strategic outline business case to the Government in March but has yet to be given the go-ahead from the Transport Secretary to back the scheme.

And now there is the small matter of a deadline to meet: if the hybrid Bill, which is needed to make the project happen, is not submitted before the end of the current five-year parliament, it will be dead in the water, the team has warned. 

The submission of the Bill has already been pushed back by a year – it was thought to be originally pencilled in for early 2019, but is now due in 2020. In order to keep the project on track it needs to have the go-ahead by the autumn.

“We are asking the Government for a firm commitment for the project and to move to the next stage of the design,” says Val Shawcross, deputy mayor of London for transport.

“We need a shared message from the business community that this venture will deliver high value for money.” Ms Dix reveals that, having written off the idea of attracting private funding for the venture as being too risky, the Crossrail 2 team are now reviewing the calculations.

The total cost of building the line is estimated to be £30bn.

“There have been three separate studies looking into private sector finance and comparing it to public sector options,” she explains.

“The general consensus is that [private sector funding] means more risk and higher costs, but in the current circumstances we are revisiting those things.”

Counting the cost

The Government wants London to demonstrate it can meet half of the cost, and the WPA’s report suggests that allowing London authorities to keep more of their property taxes, which are currently redistributed to central government, could be used as part of the funding.

John Walker, director of planning at Westminster City Council, is more frank.

“We need to look further afield,” he says. “Those towns and villages outside of London which will benefit from the line need to be putting their hands in their pockets.”

Politicians are so anxious about the project’s future that Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, is set to meet Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for crunch talks later this month.

Ms Shawcross says she is confident that one way or another, the scheme will go ahead.

“This is too big and too important to let slip away,” she says, adding that the National Infrastructure Commission has already asked the team to shave £4bn off their budget.

She will not say exactly how much it might cost if the project does not get through in the timescale she wants, but says: “It is about lost income down the line, and lost growth for the city, if we have to keep the project in development longer than we had anticipated.”

Other estimates suggest it could cost as much as £1.8bn for every year the scheme is delayed. She adds that timing for the building of the line is crucial: if the team waits too long then construction workers could be pulled onto another infrastructure project elsewhere.

Some have criticised the idea of building another line for London, while other areas of the country lack investment, but Ms Shawcross says the two are not mutually exclusive.

“We do believe that we need to see the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse and so on,” she says, “but Crossrail 2 would sit alongside that.”

She adds: “This is the moment when we’re nearly there and it is the time for us to speak up.” But until it gets the go-ahead from the Government, work on Crossrail 2 has come to something of a halt at the moment.

According to the team behind it, not pushing forward is a decision made now that the country may regret in 15 years’ time.  There is definitely a will, but it remains to be seen whether there is a way.

Read other news on the city site of London.

SadiqKhan Crossrail Planning Passengers GeorgeOsborne Westminste rNewhomes ChrisGrayling
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
7 views in october
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

A senior US military commander has called on the UK to take back Islamic State fighters who have been "caught on the battlefield" in Syria. Maj Gen Patrick Roberson, commander of US special ops, also called on the government to repatriate two Londoners who have been called the "IS Beatles". The UK says El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey have been stripped of their British citizenship. The government is negotiating for them to face trial in the US. Speak...
A woman has died in a suspected gas explosion in north-west London. Her body was found in a first-floor flat destroyed in the blast in Fulbeck Way, Harrow, just before 01:00 BST Sunday. Another woman, a man and a baby were rescued from a second-floor flat, with the woman and child taken to hospital. About 70 firefighters tackled the flames and 40 neighbours were evacuated from their homes. The Met is investigating. The victim, believed to be in her 80s, ha...
About 13 million adults in the UK live in areas where at least half of the local banks and building societies have closed, analysis by the BBC reveals. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show nearly 6,000 local branches have shut since 2010, a fall of a third. The consumer group Which? called the number of closures "alarming". Trade association UK Finance said closing a branch was a last resort when usage falls. Banks and building societ...
A ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward by eight years to 2032, MPs have said. The government's current plans to ensure all new cars are "effectively zero emission" by 2040 were "vague and unambitious", a report by Parliament's business select committee said. It also criticised cuts to subsidies and the lack of charging points. The government said it aimed to make the UK "the best place in the world" to own an electric vehicl...
London area home sales fell 15.9 per cent in September from August because of a shortage of homes to sell, and that shortage of inventory helped push up prices by 20 per cent from a year ago, the head of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) said. In September, LSTAR reported 776 homes changed hands in London and St. Thomas, compared to a near-record August, when 923 homes were sold. By the numbers Homes sold in September: 776 (a drop of 6....
Radical preacher Anjem Choudary, jailed for inviting support for the Islamic State group, has been released. The cleric was sentenced in 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison. He led an extremist network linked to violent jihadists, including one of the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013. Choudary, 51, has now served half of his sentence and will complete the rest under strict supervision. Police are preparing up to 25 measures to control him, the BBC...
One of London's front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if he wins the top job, provincial and civic election officials say. One of London’s front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if...
Nearly 150 County of Lambton paramedics are no longer responding to non-emergency calls amid ongoing negotiations for a new contract. Job action as of last Saturday means Lambton County paramedics won’t be doing non-urgent transfers between hospitals for the next while, or keeping ambulance stations as neat and tidy, a union spokesperson says. Nearly 150 Lambton Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics represented by SEIU Healthcare Local 1 stopped resp...
Clapham Junction has been named London’s worst mainline train station for disruption in a survey by leading consumer title Which? Fifty-seven per cent of trains have been late or cancelled at the south London interchange since the beginning of the year, their research found. Their study found King’s Cross was the second worst, with 51 per cent of trains delayed or cancelled, followed by Victoria (47 per cent), Stratford (44 per cent) and London Bridge (44...