Crossrail ‘could be mothballed’

Crossrail’s Farringdon station

Sky News reports that the £19bn east-to-west rail link through the capital, will be mothballed without more government money to bail it once more.

Crossrail was meant to have opened in 2018 and cost less than £15bn. The central section is now not expected to open before 2022 and costs have risen to close to £19bn.

According to Sky News, London transport commissioner Andy Byford wrote to Bernadette Kelly, the permanent secretary at the Department for Transport (DfT), last week seeking £80m to keep the project alive.

“If agreement is not reached this week, we will have no option but to mothball the project and to seek alternative governance for its eventual completion,” the letter said, according to Sky News’ sources. “I sincerely hope that we can avoid such a Doomsday scenario.”

Mr Byford apparently wrote: “We do not have the financial headroom to provide additional funding unless the government provides funding certainty now by agreeing to the heads of terms we have submitted to you.

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“These heads of terms include the majority of Crossrail’s funding deficit being covered by borrowing from the GLA [Greater London Authority], which is, in our view, an extremely good deal for the government given the wider financial impacts of current circumstances and ensures that London continues to pay for the majority of the additional funding required.”

Governance of the Crossrail project – to be called the Elizabeth Line on completion – was last month transferred from the DfT to Transport for London as it transitions from a construction project to a transport operation. But TfL has its own funding crisis, having been hit by a reported £4bn revenue fall due to the decline in passenger numbers during the pandemic in 2020.

A government spokesperson said: “The government remains committed to the efficient completion of the project, in a way that is fair to UK taxpayers, and that ensures London – as the primary beneficiary of Crossrail – bears the additional costs.

“We are working with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to develop a funding solution to see Crossrail’s completion.

“It is unfortunate, in contrast to other construction projects, the Mayor chose to unnecessarily halt work on Crossrail during the pandemic.”

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