There was a short debate last Thursday in the House of Commons on the topic of Crossrail – of which there have been many rumours, usually denied, of cost cutting plans of around a third off the cost. Setting aside the fact that the recession itself causes the cost of Crossrail to drop (thanks to lower land prices, cheaper commodities and less competition for labour) there is still talk of cuts to the project.
It was particularly pointed out that when talk of cuts are made in the media, they always talk about the £16 billion package, but in fact the central Government sum is considerably smaller, at around £5.5 billion, of which £2.5 billion has already been spent. There is therefore limited capacity for further cuts to save taxpayer money.
Overall, the debate last Thursday focused largely on the difficult topic of the Woolwich Crossrail station – and the possibility that it may not manifest in reality.
This station was added at the last minute to the plans for Crossrail, and only subject to it being paid for by private companies – namely Berkeley Homes.
Greenwich MP, Nick Raynsford argued that the economic downturn had adversely affected Berkeley Homes (some commentators may note he keeps himself well informed about the building industry), which has left the stations funding in doubt, and that the government should step into fill the funding shortfall.
Part of the justification for keeping Woolwich station comes from the recently opened DLR station in the centre of town, which was projected to support 2.4 million journeys in its first year but has in fact slightly more than doubled that to around 5 million journeys.
In addition, the population of Greenwich and Woolwich is projected to grow by 113,000 by 2031. At the same time, the number of jobs in the borough is projected to increase by just 8,000; however, just across the river, Canary Wharf will require an extra 110,000 workers – which argues for increased transport links between Woolwich and Canary Wharf.
Responding, Theresa Villiers MP, Minister of State for Transport said that she wanted to be quite clear on the issue:
…the Government cannot offer additional taxpayers’ money over and above what has been agreed within the current funding programme to replace the shortfall in the private sector contribution that Berkeley Homes promised to provide.
She did, however, confirm that the government is flexible on the subject and that other alternatives that do not involve additional taxpayer funds are being looked into – such as development opportunities around the station or even contributions from other sources.
More on the debate can be found here.