Cross­rail 2 up­date

AN­DREW MOURANT finds out why things have gone a bit quiet on the Cross­rail 2 front

Rail (UK) - - Crossrail -

AN­DREW MOURANT finds out why things have gone a bit quiet for Cross­rail 2.

These are cru­cial days for Cross­rail 2, Lon­don’s next great in­fras­truc­ture project, which aims to pro­vide a seam­less link be­tween the cap­i­tal’s north and south. Trans­port for Lon­don ( TfL) is wait­ing - per­haps with a de­gree of trep­i­da­tion - to see what the Depart­ment for Trans­port (DfT) will make of its busi­ness case.

It all boils down to money, but no one se­ri­ously ex­pects C2 to run away with the public purse, as has the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of the Great Western line. Its sup­port­ers, how­ever, point to Cross­rail 1, which ap­pears to be on time and within bud­get. And if any­thing, C2’s pro­jected cost has shrunk slightly from fig­ures quoted last year.

Cross­rail 2 is a pro­posed south-west to north-east rail line, based on the ChelseaHack­ney route. It will fea­ture a twin 24-mile tun­nelled sec­tion be­tween Wim­ble­don and Tot­ten­ham Hale and New South­gate, con­nect­ing to ex­ist­ing Na­tional Rail routes in Sur­rey and Hert­ford­shire.

When RAIL in­ter­viewed C2 Manag­ing Direc­tor Michèle Dix this time last year, she had plenty to say about fund­ing, the busi­ness case and the tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. But when we called for an up­date, TfL was no­tably ret­i­cent, as though fear­ful of rock­ing the boat while DfT money men and tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sors are por­ing over their case.

Both par­ties were vague about when that ver­dict might be de­liv­ered - guesses re­volved around late spring/early summer. How­ever, it was pos­si­ble to glean some clues about el­e­ments of the lat­est think­ing from Lon­don Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try (LCCI) which, ear­lier in April, hosted Dix at a busi­ness break­fast.

The LCCI is anx­ious for C2 to go ahead, but still wary about the fi­nan­cial bur­den the cap­i­tal might in­cur. “Nowhere else ( but Lon­don) do ( busi­ness and res­i­dents) have to pay so much. The cost of do­ing busi­ness here is con­stantly in­creas­ing,” says pol­icy man­ager Si­wan Puw.

The cham­ber is “per­fectly happy with the busi­ness case”, though it might find the bill hard to swal­low if Lon­don is asked to con­trib­ute more than 50% through var­i­ous money-rais­ing de­vices, such as the in­fras­truc­ture levy. In fact, TfL’s lat­est es­ti­mate is for a fi­nal cost of £ 31.2 bil­lion, a lit­tle less than the £ 32.6bn - de­signed to cover all even­tu­al­i­ties - that Dix spoke of last spring.

The mo­men­tum seemed firmly be­hind what Dix called “a big bold scheme that Lon­don wants and Lon­don needs… with ben­e­fits from the So­lent to the Wash.” The then chan­cel­lor, Ge­orge Os­borne, had sanc­tioned the ex­pen­di­ture of £ 80 mil­lion – half the £160m price of an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment and all work needed to pre­pare for a hy­brid bill to go be­fore Par­lia­ment.

Much has been made of the enor­mous long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits - hope­ful fore­casts that Cross­rail 2 will sup­port up to 200,000 jobs, en­able 200,000 new homes to be built across the south­east and yield pro­duc­tiv­ity ben­e­fits of more than £100 bil­lion to the UK econ­omy.

Across the C2 sup­ply chain there will be ap­pren­tice­ships and in­vest­ment in train­ing, and there will be con­ti­nu­ity, with teams of Cross­rail 1 tech­ni­cal ex­perts in­volved. Such are the hopes of the LCCI. It wants po­ten­tially productive over­seas stu­dents who’ve grad­u­ated from British uni­ver­si­ties with use­ful knowl­edge and skills to be free to re­main in the UK, so they can ap­ply their qual­i­fi­ca­tions to C2.

Last spring, few had se­ri­ously con­tem­plated the eco­nomic con­se­quences of Brexit and its ef­fect on govern­ment think­ing about big spend­ing projects. It’s hard to find any­one who thinks C2 will be scrapped, but there’s un­ease about a po­ten­tial de­lay to pass­ing the re­quired leg­is­la­tion.

Doubts have seeped out from within govern­ment about whether the route of­fers best value for money, even though C2 says it has done all the eval­u­a­tions. Any slip­page would dis­may the LCCI. “We don’t want to be play­ing catch-up, in­stead of be­ing ahead of the game,” says Puw.

“Michèle Dix sug­gested that by hav­ing rig­or­ous con­sul­ta­tion be­fore sub­mit­ting the bill you could tease out parts of the leg­is­la­tion that might cause hold-ups in com­mit­tee - though that hasn’t stopped HS2 from be­ing bandied around the Lords and Com­mons.

“That govern­ment asked for a re­vised busi­ness case does raise con­cerns and in­creases the need to keep up the pres­sure - there was a call for ac­tion to make the case.” But as Dix pointed out to her break­fast au­di­ence, there’s a new chal­lenge - with Brexit des­tined to eat up so much Par­lia­men­tary time, a C2 hy­brid bill, along with a lot of other things, risks be­ing squeezed.

One op­tion sug­gested at the meet­ing was to build C2 piece­meal - be­gin­ning with a sta­tion at ei­ther end of the line fol­lowed by in­ter­ven­ing stops, as sources of money

be­come avail­able. But as Dix points out, com­plex and ex­pen­sive sta­tions along with things such as ven­ti­la­tion shafts are in­te­gral to the over­all plan.

Last July, Net­work Rail said that by au­tumn it would pub­lish up­dated plans for tech­ni­cally prob­lem­atic and con­tentious sta­tion sites, such as Bal­ham/Toot­ing Broad­way and King’s Road, Chelsea. But that’s all gone quiet. “We’re await­ing govern­ment ap­proval of the busi­ness case be­fore we make our re­vised plans pub­licly avail­able,” an NR spokesman said.

How­ever, it’s con­tin­u­ing to work on look­ing at where costs could be saved, pre­par­ing for fu­ture public con­sul­ta­tions and how Cross­rail 2 would link into ex­ist­ing trans­port in­fras­truc­ture.

In Septem­ber, TfL and NR sum­moned a range of ex­perts from the en­gi­neer­ing, de­sign and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries who could be­come in­volved in C2’s next stage. The gath­er­ing was “in­tended to en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing and early in­no­va­tion, drive down costs, en­sure the rail­way can be de­liv­ered on time and rep­re­sent the best value for money.”

Re­cently, lead­ers of some of the UK’s largest con­struc­tion com­pa­nies wrote to Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond with a plea to con­tinue fund­ing de­vel­op­ment of Cross­rail 2 - “to show the world that the UK is open for busi­ness, de­spite its loom­ing exit from the Euro­pean Union.”

The shadow of self-in­ter­est is also loom­ing. Ob­ser­va­tions made some time ago on C2 by David Leam, in­fras­truc­ture direc­tor at Lon­don First, seem ever more rel­e­vant: that for Lon­don to swal­low half the bill will in­volve “cre­ativ­ity and, in­evitably, an el­e­ment of pain”, and that the con­struc­tion in­dus­try must ask it­self “search­ing ques­tions” about costs.

The LCCI is anx­ious for C2 to go ahead, but still wary about the fi­nan­cial bur­den the cap­i­tal might in­cur.


Cross­rail 2 will run from northeast to south­west Lon­don through 24 miles of twin tun­nels at an es­ti­mated con­struc­tion cost of £31.2 bil­lion, but more de­tailed plans will not be re­vealed un­til the Govern­ment has ap­proved the scheme’s busi­ness case.

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