All has been (unsurprisingly) quiet on the Croxley front since the then newly appointed Coalition Government first announced its Spending Review. The scheme, which would see the Metropolitan Line extended to Watford Junction via Croxley, was one of those which featured in the EERA’s funding recommendations earlier this year, recommendations that the the DfT had got as far as approving before the Spending Review freeze kicked in.

Since then, the Croxley Rail Link has been most noticable by its further absence from TfL’s budget line items – although the organisation had allocated no funding for the project (its a Hertfordshire led scheme) it had previously at least gained a mention nonetheless.

It has, however, finally resurfaced on the DfT radar. Yesterday saw the DfT confirm a number of transport projects that would now go ahead.

Whilst most attention has focused on the (admittedly plentiful) road-based projects that have been 100% confirmed, there is more in the announcement than that.

Effectively the press release indicates that the DfT have broken down the majority of the local projects that had been sitting on its “to do” list into four categories:

1) Green-lit schemes that will go ahead, subject to the relevant statutory requirements being met.

2) Schemes that have been confirmed, subject to a final financial negotiations with local authorities post-Spending Review (i.e. assuming the Local Authority can still afford it where their input is required)

3) The “development group” – schemes that will compete for part of the £600m pot that remains for the DfT to fund local authority projects with. Schemes here may require some further evaluation by the DfT, and Local Authorities will need to make final bid submissions for each scheme.

4) Schemes that could qualify to be part of the development group, but definitely require further DfT evaluation and may need to have their proposals reworked by the relevant Local Authority.

The major road works already announced compose the contents of the first of those groups, whilst the second group contains a number of further mainly road-based projects (the notable exception being the Midland Metro Extension).

Beyond these two groups, more public-transport based projects finally begin to appear. The third group – those competing for the remaining £600m funding pot – is a bit more bus-heavy, with a number of transit schemes included (such as the new Bristol Bus Rapid Transit scheme).

Finally, and most relevant here, the fourth category contains the Croxley Rail Link, as well as a number of bus and road schemes (including the Watford Interchange).

So Croxley’s battle is not lost, but it is far from won. Herts’ original case for the scheme was reportedly quite strong, so it is certainly not outside the realms of possibility that, by January 2011 (the DfT’s deadline for evaluating category four projects), the Croxley Rail Link will be competing for part of the £600m funding pot the DfT still have for local projects.

It is worth remembering, however, that currently the scheme is reckoned to cost about £172m which means that even if it required only a partial contribution from the DfT, it would likely require a significant slice of that pot – something that may well count against it when the time comes.

This funding reshuffle at the DfT also means that those looking for a speedy resolution (or construction) are likely to be disappointed. Decisions on which of the category three schemes will be funded will not be made until the end of 2011, and even then the DfT have made clear that actual development funding for those projects would likely not be made available until 2012/2013.

Despite all this though it is worth taking some positives from Croxley’s inclusion on the DfT list. For as the DfT’s announcement makes ominously clear:

The department cannot at this point consider any new local authority schemes other than those in the above groups.

With that in mind then, proponents of the Croxley Link should probably take heart in the fact that it made the final list in the first place.

Written by John Bull