A crucial year for Crossrail 2

This is a vital year for the future of Crossrail 2. Lord Adonis’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is at present considering the evidence that it has gathered on three nationally important projects: these include not only the electricity supply, and connecting Northern cities, but also the future of London’s infrastructure – especially Crossrail 2.

Crossrail 2 will connect together national rail networks in Surrey and Hertfordshire via a new tunnel between south-west and north-east London.
A third public consultation on the project has just been completed, and
it is ready to move to the development stage. Following Crossrail 1 and HS2, it is the next transformative engineering project for London and the South-
east, and one affecting the wider UK economy too.

The NIC’s report will inform the chancellor’s decisions in his March Budget on which projects get crucial development funding.

The UK capital’s population has already hit 8.6m; by 2030 it will be around 10m. Crossrail 1, the Northern Line extension and other projects
will make a difference. But all the projections are that without additional, transformative infrastructure, the system will be severely congested by the early 2030s.

Unless we commit ourselves firmly now to decisions on infrastructure investment for the next decade and 
a half, parts of the wider South-east’s transport system risk grinding to a halt. When it opens from 2018, Crossrail 1 will have taken in total a full 10 years to construct. A massive project such as Crossrail 2 needs to be given a green light now if it is going to get commuters to work in 2030.

Crossrail 2 will bring 270,000 people into central London every day during the morning peak period. It will create new connections across the region and take pressure off congested rail lines connecting into London, especially from the South-west. In this way, it will speed up journeys right across the wider South-east region: the benefits should be felt as far away as Southampton and Peterborough.

Crossrail 2 is also vital to the UK because it is not just a railway. It will drive increases in housebuilding – in total, 200,000 new homes. Moreover, KPMG’s analysis shows it could add £102bn to the UK’s economy.

Crossrail 2 will play an important role too in the future of Britain’s engineering and civil engineering industries. Without a steady pipeline of infrastructure projects, we risk losing the skills and capacity built in recent years, for example through Crossrail 1’s impressive apprenticeship programme. It is estimated that Crossrail 2 will make a similar investment in skills, training and apprenticeships – and in improving the diversity and inclusivity of the industry.

Crossrail 2’s supply chain will also bring orders to engineering firms across the whole country, both while in construction and when in operation. Crossrail is already supporting tens of thousands of jobs throughout Britain, producing everything from switchgear in Telford, to cable in Middlesbrough, to test equipment in Ayrshire. It is estimated that Crossrail 2 could support around 60,000 full-time jobs across the UK through its supply chain, in addition to the 18,000 people who would be employed on it directly during construction.

With a positive decision in March
to invest in the project’s further development, we can complete
the work needed on design and environmental impacts, prior to seeking powers to build the railway
– most likely via a hybrid bill in parliament. Investment now is the only way for construction to start in 2020 and for a completion date of 2030.

But to achieve that, we need to move up a gear this spring and get this crucial infrastructure project on track.

Michele Dix is chief executive of Crossrail 2.