Green light for Crossrail – at last

I’m still pinching myself, but it looks as if Crossrail really is happening.

Now the Crossrail Act has been passed, all they have to do is build the thing. It’s been a long-time coming; the original Crossrail Bill was tabled in 1991. The final project won’t open til 2017, long after the London Olympics have been & gone. And there’s still some uncertainty about the funding. But despite all the doubts and delays, Crossrail is really good news.

Islington benefits with a new station at Farringdon. The very ugly Cardinal House should be demolished, and thanks to the lobbying of Islington councillors, there will now be one new ticket hall to serve both Crossrail and Thameslink2000, rather than the original nonsense proposal for two, unconnected buildings (maximum pain for minimum gain).

Now the works have the go-ahead, the challenge for Islington Council is to assist Crossrail, while being probably the only agency involved to stop and worry about local residents. It’s important that someone sticks up for the local community.

Major rail projects aren’t new to Islington. I remember when the Channel Tunnel rail link came through Islington, with major works around the Caledonian Road. The space under the Cally where they planned to tunnel was already crowded with fragile Victorian sewers and gas pipes as well as more modern cabling. The firms delivering the project wanted to close the Cally to through traffic, for their ‘utility mitigation works’ which would have caused chaos locally. The Government could (ahem) railroad through any necessary enabling measures, even if the Council objected. Officers were ready to say yes. So Cllr Rupert Perry & I sat up til 1am at an Islington planning committee, to argue the case against (well-briefed, as ever, by the Cally Rail Group). We ended up with single lane traffic and temporary traffic lights: not ideal, but much better for the locals than the original plans. There may well be similar battles ahead for Farringdon….

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