Crossrail: Government delays mean Islington pays

Crossrail is coming at last. Of course we all welcome it. But the truth is that it is years behind schedule, and Gordon Brown could have unlocked the funding for it any time in the last decade. Crossrail provides a direct link from Berkshire to Essex via Heathrow, central London and the City – or at least it will when it’s built. Originally it was planned to open by 2011; now it will be too late for the 2012 Olympics. What a huge missed opportunity. But perhaps what is worse is the lasting effect of the delay on over-development in inner London, specifically Islington.

Back in 2002 Ken Livingstone set out his London Plan. He had a choice: to control growth or to embrace it. As we all know, Ken abandoned his left-wing roots and went for growth. He predicted that London’s population would rise from 7.4 million people to 8.1 million by 2016, and that by 2016, 636,000 new jobs would be created – an increase of 14% – many of them in financial services.

Why is Crossrail so vital? Without Crossrail, those extra residents and workers will have to contend with the existing, overloaded transport system. Existing commuters will suffer even more. New workers will compete to live in central London, pushing up house prices and leading to intense pressure for development on every available bit of land. And that’s exactly what is happening in Islington.

London will have grown by the equivalent population of Leeds by 2016; and Crossrail won’t be here until at least 2017.

From the start it was clear that Crossrail would be needed to make the London Plan sustainable. The GLA reported on the Plan in November 2002; they said “We are concerned that so much of the Plan’s implementation appears to depend upon the delivery of Crossrail. Table 5.3 shows that this will not open until 2011 at the earliest. Progress is dependent on Government support and on construction proceeding without delays. In these circumstances, the Mayor needs to demonstrate that he has a fall back strategy, but the draft Plan has none.”

The case for funding Crossrail adds up. The Government is contributing £5bn towards the total project cost of £16bn. The estimated benefit of Crossrail to the UK economy is £30 billion. Crossrail always made sense – but business would not commit their funds until they knew Gordon Brown would do the same.

So let’s cheer for Crossrail – but shed a tear for the price Islington will have to pay for the Government’s dither and delay.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] been & gone. And there’s still some uncertainty about the funding. But despite all the doubts and delays, Crossrail is really good […]

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