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April 18, 2016updated 24 Oct 2017 12:48pm

Crossrail 2: London’s next ‘necessary’ rail project

Crossrail - or the Elizabeth Line - is still three years away from commencing full operations. But, as concerns regarding the ability of the rail network to function in the face of a growing population intensify, another development has emerged: Crossrail 2.

By Gary Peters

Crossrail 2

Speaking at the Transport Times UK Infrastructure Summit (UKTIS), Michèle Dix, Crossrail 2 managing director, outlined her belief that without Crossrail 2 London will struggle to move people from A to B sufficiently. Yes, upgrades to the existing network can help, but new links are needed and the long-term thinking has to be bold, she added.

The proposed route will connect the National Rail networks in Surrey and Hertfordshire with new tunnels and stations between Wimbledon, Tottenham Hale and New Southgate, and, so say its supporters, address the chronic overcrowding and capacity headaches that are becoming all too common.

Lord Adonis, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), was explicit in his support of Crossrail 2, saying in the NIC’s March report: "London needs Crossrail 2 as quickly as possible. [It] will help keep London moving, create hundreds of thousands of homes and fire regeneration across the city form North-East to South-West. We should get on with it right away, and have the line open by 2033."

Clearing the hurdles

A look at both the national and industry press shows there is plenty of goodwill for the project; momentum is an important factor here. After the NIC’s recommendation to – put it bluntly – ‘get on with it’, Chancellor George Osborne used his budget to give what he called a "green light". Government also announced an £80m fund to pay for the development of the plans (Transport for London (TfL) will also match this figure). It made for good headlines, but not by any stretch of the imagination has Crossrail 2 cleared all of its hurdles.

Also present at UKTIS was Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, who spoke of how major infrastructure commitments such as this need a succession of green lights – although she also subscribed to the view that it has broad appeal.

The aim of getting Crossrail 2 operational by the early 2030s is based on a timeframe that involves seeking permission to build the new line in late 2017, a process that may last for up to two years. Dix and her team hope to present a hybrid bill to parliament in 2019. If formal consent is granted construction could start sometime around 2020.

"London needs Crossrail 2 as quickly as possible."

Crossrail 2 won’t come cheap. With an estimated cost of approximately £28bn, it represents a huge investment. The NIC report says that London should pay at least half of the bill – some suggested mechanisms for this include fares revenue, council tax precept and the resale of land and property.

Lord Adonis has also called for ways to reduce the overall cost. Delaying the branch to New Southgate could remove around £4bn, while a strategy to maximise the role of the private sector in the "development and funding of stations and their surrounding areas" should be pursued.

While the UKTIS demonstrated a united front on Crossrail 2, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested in March that the North should, in effect, get first billing. He was swiftly rebuked by his party’s London mayoral election candidate Sadiq Khan and Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith. Corbyn’s concern? That London transport is being put before the needs of the North.

At UKTIS, Mike Brown, TfL commissioner, and David Brown, chief executive of Transport for the North, were keen to downplay any sense of a ‘London vs the North narrative’, but for those who agree with Corbyn it’s something that will not go away easily.

However, that aside, Crossrail 2 – following in the footsteps of its older brother – is building momentum.

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