Sort out Crossrail to put London back on track

Andy Byford
·2 min read
 (PA)
(PA)

While there will be an understandable sense of trepidation when lockdown is eased on December 2, it brings the opportunity to move forward and for the economy to revive.

Transport for London stands ready to safely support the capital’s businesses and attractions. We need London to flourish again for the benefit of the UK as a whole. Given the city is a net contributor to the exchequer of around £35 billion each year, there is simply no UK recovery, and no money to level up other parts of the UK, without a London recovery.

And there is no London recovery without a viable transport network underpinning it — getting everyone around and supporting jobs, opportunities, new homes and economic growth. Before Covid, TfL was on the path to achieving a level of financial self-sufficiency almost unheard of for transport authorities around the world. But the pandemic has massively impacted our finances. After much negotiation, the Government agreed a funding package so that we can continue to support London over the next six months. That is welcome, but to support longer-term economic recovery, TfL needs stable and sustainable long-term government funding.

This would enable us to keep services running safely and reliably, modernise ageing trains, bridges, signalling and track, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. But even more pressing is the need to finalise the financial deal with Government so that we can complete Crossrail and open the Elizabeth line. The transformational railway will slash journey times, create much-needed capacity, protect social distancing, transform accessibility and provide a huge economic boost. It would be the ultimate symbol of London’s emergence from Covid — a glittering sign of hope for the future.

We are nearly there. We now have a clear path to completion by no later than the first half of 2022. The Greater London Authority is pledging £825 million of the outstanding funding, but we need the Government to give us the financial guarantees to backstop the deal. Without such agreement, work cannot continue. The new railway would mark the rebirth of London from the pandemic. It would be an embarrassing and wasteful disaster if victory, not just for London, but for the whole UK, is snatched away at the last moment.