Crossrail 2 could deliver homes and workers the capital needs

Stakeholder meeting hears hopes are high for significant funding in Autumn Statement as project is increasingly seen as fundamental to capital’s economy, reports Tim Fitch.

Crossrail 2 - vital for connecting the capital and the south east

Last Friday, a stakeholders’ meeting was organised by TfL to give an update on the Crossrail 2 development. Speakers included Crossrail 2 managing director, deputy mayor for housing Richard Blakeway Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy and chair of the Crossrail 2 growth commission Sir Mark Cockell. The audience was made up of local politicians and councillors, plus key people from prominent members of the supply chain. This was an opportunity for the audience to gain a deeper understanding of Crossrail 2, and the impact that it could have on the UK.

"With Crossrail in place, almost 500,000 more people will be within a 45 minute commute of the City, and workers will easily be able to access other high-density employment centres in the wider south east."

An innovation on the part of TfL was to use the Linkedin Crossrail 2 Group as a way of reaching out to those organisations that had previously joined and thus expressed an interest in the project. At the time of organising the group had over 1300 members and continues to grow. If you wish to join the group click here.

Michele Dix outlined the Crossrail 2 scheme which will once built  provide a new railway to serve the wider south east (London, the south east, and the east of England), with the intention of allowing the most productive and competitive parts of the nation’s economy to continue to grow amid the increasing challenges it faces.

Unsurprisingly, the speakers at the event were in strong support of the project. They all used a similar theme when presenting, in order to emphasise the necessity of Crossrail 2. Most told of the growing problems facing the wider south east, and how Crossrail 2 was the most credible and efficient project to not only tackle them, but also to maximise the output of our highly productive cities.

The main three interlinking problems are: population growth, the lack of houses (particularly in London), and the insufficient level of transport. By 2030, London’s population will have risen by 1.4 million (more than the entire population of Birmingham) to a staggering 10 million; and this theme continues in the east and south east, which will experience a 20% increase by 2037. This rise will then increase the already huge strain on housing levels and transport links.

Young, skilled workers are already being put off of moving towards London by the price of housing. Population growth will only heighten the demand, and therefore push the prices up further. In recent years, the capital has only delivered half of the 49,000 new homes required every year – this is very concerning.

On top of this, the wider south east’s transport network is suffering tremendously – and things are getting worse and worse. There’s insufficient capacity in the peak periods when travelling to and from London, and many are subjected to the feeling of being ‘tinned sardines’ when having to stand for long distances with little to no personal space. Forecasts predict severe crowding on the Tube to double by 2041, and at major rail termini this will cause no end of problems. In the Cambridge-Stansted corridor, an area which is flourishing, employers are struggling to grow at the rate they want because of the inability to draw in workers from London due to the slacking transport system.

If nothing is done, not only will the quality of life for those living and working the wider south east decrease, but the UK’s international competitiveness will drop as our most productive sectors suffocate.

At the meeting, the audience was told that Crossrail 2 could be the solution. Not only would it minimise the negative impact of the population increase, but it could enable us to unleash the potential it brings to the UK, whilst being the catalyst for further growth.

"Crossrail 1 has already resulted in substantial housing development years prior to project completion."

Crossrail 2 would help relieve the pressure on current infrastructure, and provide an enormous boost to rail capacity across the wider south east. By delivering up to 30 trains per hour in the central core of London in peak periods, crowding should be significantly reduced. Spreading out, services would run for over 100km and allow an additional 270,000 people to access central London at this peak time. The effects will be felt further afield too – Crossrail 2 will provide much needed capacity for transport links to cities such as Cambridge, Portsmouth, and Southampton.

Crossrail 2 will enable the capital to unlock the potential of currently underdeveloped areas, which are also areas of huge opportunity. A key example is The Upper Lea Valley – it’s close to Central London, but it has inadequate transport links, and thus receives little investment. Crossrail 2 would provide these links, making it a more appealing place to live, and hence lead to a whole regeneration of the area. We have seen this happen already with Crossrail 1 – which has already resulted in substantial housing development years prior to project completion. Forecasts predict the same for Crossrail 2, accelerating the development of 200,000 new homes across the wider south east.

The UK has the second-lowest productivity rate in the G7, and productivity growth currently is at its slowest since the 1990s. We know that the cities are playing an incredibly important economic role, they specialise in knowledge intensive sectors which are critical to the UK’s future competitiveness. With Crossrail in place, almost 500,000 more people will be within a 45 minute commute of the City, and workers will easily be able to access other high-density employment centres in the wider south east. Plus, businesses will feel the benefits due to the easier access of customers, staff, and markets across the UK.

One of the talks focused on the development itself of Crossrail 2. As well as supporting the UK’s engineering, construction, and manufacturing sectors, it will also employ 18,000 directly on the project. Through its supply chain, Crossrail 2 could support a further 60,000 full time jobs across the UK.

Of course, there was also a mention of the cost – approximately £30bn. PWC found that more than half of this could be met by London using existing funding mechanisms. By supporting economic growth, it would generate large enough returns to pay for the Government’s contribution to the project.

Michele Dix hopes that further significant funding will be announced by the Chancellor on 25th November in his autumn spending review.

If you wish to keep up to date on the project then join Linkedin in Group Crossrail 2 or clickhere.

Tim Fitch is a director of Invennt.